Legitimation in Developing Countries: South Korea and Taiwan during the Late 1940s to Early 1950s

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 17:45
Oral Presentation
Bo Kyung KIM, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, USA
This paper aims to seek alternative explanations to find sources of power and legitimacy in underdeveloped countries. Throughout history, the transformation process of world order led by states of strong powers by and large shared substantially similar patterns within systemic institutional boundaries and socio-political structures. However, state transformation and legitimation of leadership in undeveloped countries often show distinct patterns. In such countries, institutions tend to be weaker and civil society either do not exist or function properly to curb leaders from being authoritarian rulers. Especially during junctural periods, deep intervention from external actors takes place in the name of supporting development or aiding post-crises statebuilding. In such cases, legitimacy may be given from external states or intervenors instead of solely from the people of its own.

In this context, two East Asian country cases (South Korea and Taiwan) will be examined on their transformational period during the late 1940s to the early 1950s. With a historical institutionalist approach, focus will be put on how Rhee Syngman and Chiang Kai-Shek administrations were able to gain legitimacy even under the periodic settings of US intervention in line with the execution of land reform. The distinct relations among the people, the government, and stationed US institutions (USAMGIK and JCRR) show probable initial conditions of legitimate governance in underdeveloped countries under strong external influence. Hence, this paper intends to contribute by providing alternative explanations in finding determinants for leaders to gain legitimacy, specifically for developing countries where transition large in size and wide in scope such as land reform takes place with the presence of diverse influence from external actors during junctural periods.