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Professor Shaw: Even Progressive Politicians in South Korea Occasionally Display Authoritarian Tendencies

Professor Meredith Shaw of the University of Tokyo discussed the issue of “autocratization” in South Korea, highlighting concerns about authoritarian tendencies even within progressive political circles. She pointed out that some progressive politicians on the left have at times exhibited authoritarian behavior. For example, they have proposed laws like the national security law, which aimed to penalize statements perceived as supportive of North Korea. Professor Shaw further noted recent proposals for laws targeting the misrepresentation of historical events, such as the Japanese colonial rule or the democratic movements, including the Kwangju massacre under the military dictatorship.

Interview by Selcuk Gultasli

Giving an exclusive interview to European Center for Populism Studies (ECPS), Dr. Meredith Shaw, a research professor at the University of Tokyo’s the Institute of Social Science (社研) and the managing editor of Social Science Japan Journal, talked on “autocratization” in South Korea and stated that “Unfortunately, in the democratic era, some progressive politicians on the left have occasionally displayed authoritarian tendencies, though not to the same extent.”

According to Professor Shaw, even these progressive politicians in South Korea employed authocratic tactics, such as proposing laws like the national security law, which aimed to penalize statements perceived as supporting North Korea. “More recently, there have been proposals for laws punishing the misrepresentation of historical events like the Japanese colonial rule or the democratic movements, such as the Kwangju massacre under the military dictatorship. While preventing the spread of false historical narratives is essential, such laws could potentially enable governments to selectively dictate acceptable historical interpretations, ripe for manipulation by either side,” said Professor Shaw.

In this exclusive interview, Professor Shaw delves into the complex landscape of South Korean politics. With a wealth of knowledge spanning historical contexts, socio-political dynamics, and the intricacies of populism and authoritarianism, Professor Shaw offers insightful analyses and nuanced perspectives on the challenges and trends shaping contemporary South Korea.

South Korea’s political landscape is deeply influenced by its historical context, marked by a transition from anti-communism to a burgeoning anti-Japanese sentiment. Against this backdrop, the rise of populism and authoritarian tendencies presents multifaceted challenges. Professor Shaw sheds light on the historical and socio-political factors contributing to these phenomena, exploring how they intersect with the dueling antagonisms of anti-Japanism and anti-communism.

Throughout the interview, Professor Shaw navigates through the intricate dynamics of South Korean politics, examining how populist leaders frame their rhetoric and policies to resonate with the populace. She elaborates on the utilization of historical events and symbols by different factions to shape political messaging, providing insights into the evolving political discourse.

Furthermore, Professor Shaw discusses the impact of populist and authoritarian tendencies on democratic institutions and processes in South Korea. As the interview progresses, Professor Shaw explores the influence of nationalism in South Korean politics, particularly during election campaigns. She assesses the strategies employed by political parties to maintain relevance and examines the role of securitization theory in shaping political rhetoric and decision-making.

Drawing on her expertise in North Korean politics and literature, Professor Shaw also offers intriguing insights into the readership and dissemination of state-produced fiction within North Korea. She analyzes how these literary works intersect with the regime’s control over information and ideology, providing valuable perspectives on understanding the reception and interpretation of foreign interactions among North Korean society.

Here is the transcription of the interview with Professor Meredith Shaw with minor edits.

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V-Dem Director Lindberg: If Trump Is Reelected, Democracy in the US Might Not Survive

V-Dem Director Staffan I. Lindberg expresses his concern: “I am deeply concerned about the possibility of Donald Trump being reelected. In the current context, I believe that if Donald Trump is reelected, democracy in the US might not survive. He has been explicit about his dictatorial intentions, even going as far as labeling Democrats as vermin, a term that evokes disturbing parallels with Nazi Germany from the late 1930s to 1945. Such statements must be taken seriously, as they could embolden autocrats worldwide.”

Interview by Selcuk Gultasli

Expressing deep concern over the potential reelection of Donald Trump in the upcoming November elections in the US, Professor Staffan I Lindberg, Director of the Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) Institute at the University of Gothenburg, warns, “In the current context, I believe that if Trump is reelected, democracy in the US might not survive.” Highlighting Trump’s explicit dictatorial intentions, Professor Lindberg points out his divisive rhetoric, such as labeling Democrats as “vermin,” drawing disturbing parallels with Nazi Germany from the late 1930s to 1945. Lindberg emphasizes the seriousness of such statements, as they could embolden autocrats worldwide.

In an exclusive interview, Professor Lindberg and Dr. Marina Nord, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at V-Dem Institute, share their analysis of the recent V-Dem report and discuss current political developments worldwide. While Lindberg underscores, “It’s premature to declare the end of democracy,” he remains hopeful for the perseverance and strengthening of democracies, with a vision for more people to enjoy democratic rights, human rights, and freedoms in the future. Dr. Nord adds that their examination of data suggests an era of instability, noting that “while autocratization is frequently reversed, so too is democratization.” Therefore, she underscores the importance of shifting the focus of democracy promotion towards democracy protection.

Professor Lindberg sheds light on the pervasive trend of autocratization, spanning almost 15 years, during which the share of the world’s population residing in autocratizing countries has outstripped that in democratizing nations. He identifies key drivers such as China’s anti-democratic stance, Putin’s influence in former Soviet republics, and Saudi Arabia’s support for non-democratic ideologies, underscoring the gravity of these global shifts. The interview also delves into Israel’s departure from the liberal democracy category, reflecting on the constitutional crisis that precipitated this shift.

Additionally, Professor Lindberg emphasizes that according to their criteria, neither India, Hungary, nor Turkey qualify as electoral democracies anymore. He states, “They now fall below that threshold and are classified as electoral autocracies. Turkey has held this classification since around 2016 or 2017, while Hungary followed suit after 2018-19, and India shortly thereafter. Consequently, they rank among the worst offenders in terms of autocratization globally over the past decade and a half.”

Amidst the concerning trends, Dr. Nord emphasizes the importance of resilience and defiance against autocratization. Drawing from their research, she delineates five key factors driving democratic resurgence, ranging from large-scale protests to international democracy support.

The interview with Professor Lindberg and Dr. Nord offers a profound exploration of the complexities and challenges facing global democracy. The interviewees unveil the challenging landscape of global democracy, marked by concerning trends and crucial insights that demand attention and action. Their arguments offer valuable insights into strategies for combating autocratic tendencies and illuminate the path forward, urging concerted efforts to defend democratic ideals and uphold the rights and freedoms of people worldwide.

Here is the transcription of the interview with Professor Staffan I Lindberg and Dr. Marina Nord with minor edits.

ECPS-Interview- EmreErdogan

Professor Emre Erdogan: Turkish Opposition Must Adeptly Harness Power of ‘Good Populism’

Stating that populism’s appeal has not significantly diminished in Turkey despite the opposition’s recent win in local elections, Professor Emre Erdogan underscores the fact that even leading politicians within the opposition, such as Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu, exhibit certain populist characteristics. “Imamoglu’s use of populist rhetoric suggests that populism continues to hold sway in Turkish politics,” argues Professor Erdogan, urging the opposition in Turkey to adeptly harness the power of “good populism” to achieve success in upcoming elections.

Interview by Selcuk Gultasli

Professor Emre Erdogan, Head of the Department of International Relations at Bilgi University, Istanbul, sheds light on the enduring allure of populism in Turkey despite recent opposition victories in local elections. In an exclusive interview with the European Center for Populism Studies (ECPS), Professor Erdogan emphasizes the continued presence of populist characteristics even among leading opposition figures like Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu. He argues that Imamoglu’s use of populist rhetoric underscores the persistent influence of populism in Turkish politics and urges the opposition to adeptly harness the power of “good populism” to secure success in upcoming elections.

Professor Erdogan delves into strategic discussions surrounding populism, noting the advantages it affords in electoral contests and its role as a feedback mechanism within Turkey’s political landscape. He highlights the historical context of populism‘s rise, tracing its roots to the failures of the classical parliamentary system and the subsequent alienation of the populace. Despite criticisms of populism‘s negative consequences, Professor Erdogan asserts its necessity for system improvement, advocating for its skillful utilization by the opposition.

Examining the intersection of populism and authoritarianism, Professor Erdogan elucidates the unique characteristics of Turkey’s political regime, marked by a concentration of power and a lack of autonomous institutions. He underscores the pivotal role of fear in shaping populist discourse, particularly evident in the rhetoric of the ruling AKP to mobilize support and maintain its grip on power. Reflecting on recent election results, Professor Erdogan suggests that while populism‘s appeal persists, strategic alliances and shifts in voter preferences offer hope for potential change in Turkey’s political trajectory.

Moreover, Professor Erdogan offers a cautious prognosis on the future of Turkish politics, acknowledging the complexity of upcoming elections and the global resurgence of populism. While populist right-wing movements may continue to thrive, he remains skeptical of any immediate shift away from populism in the current political climate.

 

Here is the transcription of the interview with Professor Emre Erdogan with some edits.

ECPS-MGP-Panel11

Mapping Global Populism — Panel 11: Forces Shaping Populism, Authoritarianism and Democracy in South Korea, North Korea and Mongolia

Moderator

Dr. John Nilsson-Wright

(Associate Professor in Modern Japanese Politics and International Relations at University of Cambridge).

Speakers

“Discourse Regimes and Liberal Vehemence,” by Dr. Joseph Yi (Associate Professor of Political Science at Hanyang University, Seoul).

“Foreign Threat Perceptions in South Korean Campaign Discourse: Japan, North Korea and China,” by Dr. Meredith Rose Shaw (Associate Professor, Institute of Social Science, The University of Tokyo).

“Transformation of Populist Emotion in Korean Politics from 2016 to 2024,” by Dr. Sang-Jin Han (Emeritus Professor of Sociology, Seoul National University). 

“Nationalism and Resilience of Authoritarian Rule in North Korea,” by Dr. Junhyoung Lee (Research Professor in the School of International Relations at the University of Ulsan, South Korea).

Populist Nationalism as a Challenge to Democratic Stability in Mongolia,” by Dr. Mina Sumaadii (Senior Researcher at the Sant Maral Foundation, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia).

Neil Robinson

Professor Neil Robinson: Evolution of Putinism as ‘Collective Putin’ Reshapes Russian Politics

Professor Neil Robinson expresses his concerns regarding a potential escalation in the crackdown on dissent, heightened control measures, intensified efforts to label domestic opponents as foreign agents or traitors, and increased indoctrination through the education and media systems following Vladimir Putin’s resounding victory in the recent election. Additionally, he underscores the notion that Putin does not operate alone at the apex of power but rather is bolstered by a circle of allies. Robinson argues, “While this has always been true, there’s now an effort to transform this ‘collective Putin’ into more than just a hegemonic identity that Russians are expected to adhere to; it’s becoming a true collective, an unquestionable identity. Thus, the expansion of these dynamics may lead us to reconsider Putinism as something distinct from official populism.”

Interview by Selcuk Gultasli

In a landscape characterized by shifting power dynamics and heightened political tensions, Professor Neil Robinson, a distinguished scholar of Comparative Politics at the University of Limerick, offers profound insights into the evolving nature of Putinism and its ramifications for Russian politics. In an exclusive interview with the European Center for Populism Studies (ECPS), Professor Robinson delves into the intricate layers of Vladimir Putin’s regime, shedding light on the mechanisms through which power is consolidated and dissent suppressed.

Professor Robinson’s analysis underscores a fundamental shift in the dynamics of Putinism, emphasizing the emergence of what he terms as the ‘collective Putin.’ Contrary to conventional perceptions of Putin as a solitary figure at the helm, Professor Robinson elucidates how Putin operates within a circle of allies, transforming this collective into an unquestionable identity for the Russian populace. He warns against overlooking this transformation, asserting that it signifies a departure from traditional notions of official populism, warranting a re-evaluation of Putinism as a distinct political phenomenon.

Moreover, Professor Robinson highlights his concerns regarding an escalation in the crackdown on dissent, heightened control measures, intensified efforts to label domestic opponents as foreign agents or traitors, and increased indoctrination through the education and media systems in the aftermath of Vladimir Putin’s decisive victory in the recent election.

Drawing from his extensive research, Professor Robinson elucidates the evolution of populist rhetoric in Russia, contextualizing it within broader political frames such as constitutional order and legality. He delves into the strategic deployment of these discourses to stabilize regime hybridity, putting forward how they interact to shape the political landscape. Robinson’s nuanced analysis dispels simplistic characterizations of Putinism, emphasizing its complex ideological layers rather than a cohesive doctrine. He cautions against dismissing Putinism as devoid of ideology, highlighting its profound impact on political discourse and policy formulation.

Professor Robinson provides critical insights into the intersection of official populism with cultural themes, probing its implications for addressing the material needs of diverse social groups within Russia. He explains how the cultural-centric approach adopted by the regime has ramifications for economic development and social cohesion, underscoring the inherent tensions between the cultural narrative of official populism and the economic realities faced by the populace.

Furthermore, Professor Robinson examines the strategies employed by Putin to consolidate power domestically and advance Russia’s interests on the global stage. He analyzes the utilization of events such as terror attacks and elections as opportunities to bolster the regime’s position, both domestically and internationally. Professor Robinson’s comprehensive analysis offers invaluable insights into the complexities of contemporary Russian politics, providing a nuanced understanding of Putinism and its implications for the trajectory of the Russian state.

Here is the transcription of the interview with Professor Neil Robinson with some edits.

Symposium3ClosingSession

Third Symposium / Closing Session: Economic Implications of Rising Populism and Multipolarity

The Third Annual International Symposium on “The  Future of Multilateralism Between Multipolarity and Populists in Power”

Closing Session

Economic Implications of Rising Populism and Multipolarity

Moderator

Dr. Patrick HOLDEN (Associate Professor in International Relations at School of Society and Culture, University of Plymouth).

Speaker

“Demise of Multilateralism and Politicization of International Trade Relations and the Multilateral Trading System,” by Dr. Giorgio SACERDOTI (Professor of Law, Bocconi University; Former Chairman of the WTO Appellate Body).

Closing Remarks

Dr. Cengiz AKTAR (Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Athens and ECPS Advisory Board Member).

Symposium

The Third Annual International Symposium on “The Future of Multilateralism Between Multipolarity and Populists in Power”

Day I (March 19, 2024)

Opening Session

Welcome Remarks

Dr. Ibrahim OZTURK

(Professor of Economics at the Institute of East Asian Studies, University of Duisburg-Essen and ECPS Senior Researcher).

Opening Speech

Irina VON WIESE (Honorary President of the ECPS).

Moderator

Dr. Simon P. WATMOUGH (Non-Resident Fellow in the Authoritarianism Research Program at ECPS).

Keynote Speech

“The Implications of Rising Multipolarity for Authoritarian Populist Governance, Multilateralism, and the Nature of New Globalization,” by Dr. Barrie AXFORD (Professor Emeritus in Politics, Centre for Global Politics Economy and Society (GPES), School of Social Sciences and Law, Oxford Brookes University).

 

Panel -I-

Interactions Between Multilateralism, Multi-Order World, and Populism

Moderator

Dr. Albena AZMANOVA (Professor, Chair in Political and Social Science, Department of Politics and International Relations and Brussels School of International Studies, University of Kent).

Speakers

“Reimagining Global Economic Governance and the State of the Global Governance,” by Dr. Stewart PATRICK (Senior Fellow and Director, Global Order and Institutions Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace).

“Multipolarity and a post-Ukraine War New World Order: The Rise of Populism,” by Dr. Viktor JAKUPEC (Hon. Professor of International Development, Faculty of Art and Education, Deakin University, Australia; Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences, Potsdam University, Germany).

 

Panel -II-

The Future of Democracy Between Resilience & Decline

Moderator

Dr. Nora FISHER-ONAR (Associate Professor of International Studies at the University of San Francisco).

Speakers

“The Impact of Populist Authoritarian Politics on the Future Course of Globalization, Economics, the Rule of Law and Human Rights,” by Dr. James BACCHUS (Distinguished Professor of Global Affairs; Director of the Center for Global Economic and Environmental Opportunity, School of Politics, Security, and International Affairs, University of Central Florida, Former Chairman of the WTO Appellate Body).

“Resilience of Democracies Against the Authoritarian Populism,” by Dr. Kurt WEYLAND (Mike Hogg Professor in Liberal Arts, Department of Government University of Texas at Austin).

“Global Trends for Democracy and Autocracy: On the Third Wave of Autocratization and the Cases of Democratic Reversals,” by Dr. Marina NORD (Postdoctoral Research Fellow at V-Dem Institute, University of Gothenburg).

 

Day II (March 20, 2024)

Keynote Speech

“How Globalization, under Neoliberal Auspices, Has Stimulated Right-wing Populism and What Might Be Done to Arrest That Tendency?” by Dr. Robert KUTTNER (Meyer and Ida Kirstein Professor in Social Planning and Administration at Brandeis University’s Heller School, Co-Founder and Co-Editor of The American Prospect).

 

Panel -III-

Globalization in Transition

Moderator

Dr. Anna SHPAKOVSKAYA

(Postdoctoral Research Fellow, China Research Analyst at Institute of East Asian Studies, Duisburg-Essen University).

Speakers

“China’s Appeal to Populist Leaders: A Friend in Need is a Friend Indeed,” by Dr. Steven R. DAVID (Professor of Political Science at The Johns Hopkins University).

“Belt and Road Initiative: China’s Vision for Globalization?” by Dr. Jinghan ZENG (Professor of China and International Studies at Lancaster University).

“Predicting the Nature of the Next Generation Globalization under China, Multipolarity, and Authoritarian Populismby Humphrey HAWKSLEY (Author, Commentator and Broadcaster). 

Special Commentator Dr. Ho Tze Ern BENJAMIN (Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, Coordinator at the China Program, and International Relations Program).

Closing Session

Economic Implications of Rising Populism and Multipolarity

Moderator

Dr. Patrick HOLDEN 

(Associate Professor in International Relations at School of Society and Culture, University of Plymouth).

Speaker

“Demise of Multilateralism and Politicization of International Trade Relations and the Multilateral Trading System,” by Dr. Giorgio SACERDOTI (Professor of Law, Bocconi University; Former Chairman of the WTO Appellate Body).

Closing Remarks

Dr. Cengiz AKTAR 

(Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Athens and ECPS Advisory Board Member).

Symposium3Panel3

Third Symposium / Panel 3: Globalization in Transition

The Third Annual International Symposium on “The Future of Multilateralism Between Multipolarity and Populists in Power”

Moderator

Dr. Anna SHPAKOVSKAYA

(Postdoctoral Research Fellow, China Research Analyst at Institute of East Asian Studies, Duisburg-Essen University).

Speakers

“China’s Appeal to Populist Leaders: A Friend in Need is a Friend Indeed,” by Dr. Steven R. DAVID (Professor of Political Science at The Johns Hopkins University).

“Belt and Road Initiative: China’s Vision for Globalization?” by Dr. Jinghan ZENG (Professor of China and International Studies at Lancaster University).

“Predicting the Nature of the Next Generation Globalization under China, Multipolarity, and Authoritarian Populism” by Humphrey HAWKSLEY (Author, Commentator and Broadcaster). 

Special Commentator Dr. Ho Tze Ern BENJAMIN (Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, Coordinator at the China Program, and International Relations Program).

Symposium3Keynote2

Third Symposium / Second Keynote Speech Delivered by Professor Robert KUTTNER

Moderator

 Dr. Simon P. WATMOUGH

(Non-Resident Fellow in the Authoritarianism Research Program at ECPS).

Keynote Speech

“How Globalization, under Neoliberal Auspices, Has Stimulated Right-wing Populism and What Might Be Done to Arrest That Tendency?” by Dr. Robert KUTTNER (Meyer and Ida Kirstein Professor in Social Planning and Administration at Brandeis University’s Heller School, Co-Founder and Co-Editor of The American Prospect).

Symposium3Panel2

Third Symposium / Panel 2: The Future of Democracy Between Resilience and Decline

Moderator

 Dr. Nora FISHER-ONAR (Associate Professor of International Studies at the University of San Francisco).

Speakers

“Global Trends for Democracy and Autocracy: On the Third Wave of Autocratization and the Cases of Democratic Reversals,” by Dr. Marina NORD (Postdoctoral Research Fellow at V-Dem Institute, University of Gothenburg).

“Resilience of Democracies Against the Authoritarian Populism,” by Dr. Kurt WEYLAND (Mike Hogg Professor in Liberal Arts, Department of Government University of Texas at Austin).

“The Impact of Populist Authoritarian Politics on the Future Course of Globalization, Economics, the Rule of Law and Human Rights,” by Dr. James BACCHUS (Distinguished Professor of Global Affairs; Director of the Center for Global Economic and Environmental Opportunity, School of Politics, Security, and International Affairs, University of Central Florida, Former Chairman of the WTO Appellate Body).