Between the Streets and the Assembly: Social Movements, Political Parties, and Democracy in Korea

When and Where

Friday, February 03, 2023 2:30 pm to 4:30 pm
Room 519
Kaneff Tower, York University
4700 Keele Street Toronto, ON M3J 1P3


Yoonkyung Lee


This talk will be based on my book which asks how protest movements have become the prominent mode of democratic representation in South Korea, making Koreans so good at protesting in post-authoritarian decades (1987-2017), in contrast to political parties in the National Assembly that have lagged behind in partisan representation and accountability. By closely following three groups of democracy activists who pursued different methods of democratic representation, i.e. those who stayed in civil society and organized outside formal politics, those who chose to join existing parties with the aim of reforming legislative politics, and those who formed separate progressive parties to give voice to the hitherto-unrepresented, this book finds that social movement organizations were more effective than activist-turned politicians in centrist or progressive parties in creating coordination infrastructures for collective action. Through the practice of organizing national solidarity networks, innovating the methods of mass street demonstrations, and drawing professional expertise to formulate policy alternatives, Korean civic groups built the capacity to directly shape and alter the course of national politics, unlike their counterparts in many other democracies. This study asserts that social movement organizations and political parties develop variable capacities for democratic representation, not only depending on the politico-historical context but also in dynamic relation to each other.


This talk is organized by Hae Yeon Choo (Sociology, University of Toronto) and Hyun Ok Park (Sociology, York University). Registration is free and must be completed in advance. 


Centre for the Study of Korea, Korean Office for Research and Education, Academy of Korean Studies


4700 Keele Street Toronto, ON M3J 1P3