Law and the Liberal Transformation of the Northeast Asian Legal Complex in Korea and Taiwan
36 Pages Posted: 17 May 2006
Date Written: May 2006
For much of the 20th century, developmental states in capitalist Northeast Asia featured a peculiar complex of mutually reinforcing institutions. The three basic components were a relatively autonomous judiciary operating in a narrowly defined role, a miniscule private legal profession, and large degrees of administrative discretion vested in meritocratic bureaucracies. This Northeast Asian Legal Complex was nsulated from outside forces and internally stable. In the late 1980s, it came under serious pressure in Korea and Taiwan as a result of new internal and external pressures, particularly political democratization. As a central part of the democratization movement, a group of activist lawyers in each country sought to utilize law for a liberal social transformation; the extent of their success can be seen in the fact that the two countries are now governed by Presidents who were former activist lawyers. This paper, prepared for a conference on liberalism and law, traces these developments and speculates on the implications of the story for general theories of law and social transformation.
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