Image: Democracy Index 2022. Credit: Economist Intelligence Unit.
In the Democracy Index 2022 by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), South Korea took a significant step back. After hitting a low of 7.92 in 2016, the last full year of Park Geun-hye 박근혜’s presidency, South Korea’s score had risen each year, hitting 8.16 in 2021 - an all-time high score that placed the country ahead of Japan, United Kingdom, France and the United States.
But the streak is no more: in the most recent index, South Korea scored 8.03. After ranking third in Asia and 16th in the world for the health of its democracy in 2021, South Korea slid to fifth in Asia and 24th in the world in 2022.
The EIU saw “democracy in retreat” in Hong Kong and South Korea: “Years of confrontational party politics have taken a toll on South Korea’s democracy. A Manichaean interpretation of politics has shrunk the space for consensus-building and compromise, often paralyzing policymaking. Politicians focus their political energies on taking down rival politicians rather than working to find consensus and improve the lives of citizens.”