Administrative Platform of State Bureaucracy: Case of Korean Developmental Bureaucracy

Prof. Gyun Soo Yoon
Dr. Daeun Kim

In the Asian developmental state model, competent and effective bureaucracy is often cited as the major driving force behind economic prosperity. Previous researches have associated bureaucratic capacity with the notion of bureaucratic automomy, which is maintained independent of political power. They have also explained the autonomy of bureaucracy can be expanded by the strong presidential leadership. Theoretical background behind this argument is the separation of powers from the politics-administration dichotomy. According to this dichotomy, development was possible because the bureaucracy, dominated by the president's authoritarian leadership, was able to rule out interference from the legislature.
Contrary to the previous views, we assume the Korean developmental bureaucracy did not completely exclude the influence of legislative bodies, nor was it fully dominated by arbitrary orders from the president. Then how could the developmental bureaucrats effectively work in the actual policy process? We conducted a case analysis of the Korean developmental bureaucracy with reports, news articles and government documents. The findings are as follows. First, unlike previous discourse that the president dictated the administration by exercising authoritarian leadership, bureaucrats also had many opportunities to exercise their capacity by making many pieces of administrative legislation like enforcement ordinances. Secondly, the legislature was not entirely excluded from policy making process in the administration because the ruling party could participate in important decisions through government-party cooperative council.
We argue the developmental bureaucrats were able to effectively pursue policy goals by linking both areas of policy making and implementation through legislative discretion. However, these links were not entirely made by bureaucrats. The informal cooperative council with the ruling party was in operation to coordinate the important policy decisions. This tradition still persists as a core platform of the Korean administration.