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Does Class Matter? Social Cleavages in South Korea's Electoral Politics in the Era of Neoliberalism


  • Wonik Kim


This paper analyzes class voting in South Korea under neoliberalism. The class voting literature has paid too little attention to cases outside Europe and North America, while the existing studies on South Korea's elections and voting patterns have largely ignored the issue of class. The lack of interest in class voting is due mainly to strong regionalism prevalent in South Korea's electoral politics. However, the rapid and profound neoliberalization after the 1997 financial crisis has generated negative socioeconomic consequences, which may have increased the importance of a class-based bloc as a salient electoral factor. Using Goldthorpe's class schema, I test the validity of class voting in South Korea, employing microlevel survey data of the two recent parliamentary elections of 2000 and 2004. I pay particular attention to entrenched conservatism that is historically rooted in South Korea's electoral and representative systems. I formulate this vital issue in terms of a possible connection between people's decisions on whether to vote (or for that matter, nonvoting) and for whom they vote (their vote choice). The empirical evidence in this paper suggests that people vote according to their class positions in the context of the swift neoliberal restructuring in South Korea.

Suggested Citation

  • Wonik Kim, 2010. "Does Class Matter? Social Cleavages in South Korea's Electoral Politics in the Era of Neoliberalism," Review of Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 22(4), pages 589-616.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:revpoe:v:22:y:2010:i:4:p:589-616
    DOI: 10.1080/09538259.2010.510320

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