The Transnational Protection Regime and Democratic Breakthrough in Taiwan and South Korea

Su-Mei Ooi, Butler University


External state pressure is understood to have played a causally significant role in democratic breakthrough in Taiwan and South Korea during the 1980s. This article problematizes the international dimensions of democratization in Taiwan and South Korea by first providing a revisionist account of external agency which involved complex networks of transnational nonstate and substate actors. These included human rights activists, Christian churches and related ecumenical organizations, members of the Taiwanese and Korean diaspora communities in the US, academics and students, foreign journalists, and members of the US Congress. In forming a transnational “protection regime” during the 1970s and 1980s to protect the political opposition from repressive governments, they contributed to the development of effective democratic movements. The case studies provide us with a more comprehensive view of the international dimensions of democratization, speaking to both the country specific and general theoretical literatures on democratization at the same time.