HeeMin Kim - Professor, Department of Political Science, Florida State University
It has been widely hypothesized that modernization breeds political development. Although political scientists have focused on grand theory building, one is left wondering if the speed of economic development or modernization matters, or if it is just a threshold where factors amenable to democracy start to emerge. In countries that achieve rapid economic development and start the democratic transition process in a short time period, the pace of political recruitment (i.e., the quality) may not keep up with economic achievement. Because the quality of political candidates does not keep up with that of the sophisticated public, we may see apathy on the part of the electorate (i.e. low turnout) or a form of negative voting. There is no obvious way to test this rapid development-lagging political recruitment-negative voting hypothesis. Nor do we have appropriate surveys that have consistently asked respondents the kinds of questions we would need from the inception of democratic opening in countries that achieved development at different time periods. As a first step in investigating our hypothesis, we attempt what is feasible at this point by analyzing the latest presidential election in Korea. That is, we take one country where both economic and political developments have taken place in a short time span and test if the level of negative voting based on (the perceived lack of) the quality of candidates is high. The results of our analysis generally confirm what we hypothesized. Because our test is based on just one election, however, what we can conclude must be tentative. In that sense, the reader can view our study as a quantitative case study, from which one can develop a plausible theory. As we find what we expected in this study, it at least provides some justification to continue asking the same questions for other countries. Eventually, we will need to compare those democracies for which the pace of development differed, although they all reached a certain threshold of development.