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Gender Quotas and Candidate Selection Processes in South Korean Political Parties

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South Korea is one of the few East Asian countries in which candidate gender quotas are legislated for all levels of government. However, the implementation of quotas has been only partially successful as political parties do not comply with quota laws in the majoritarian tier of the country's mixed-member electoral system. To explain this non-compliance, this article examines how Korea's party organizations and candidate selection practices have subverted quota implementation. More specifically, we employ Rahat and Hazan's framework that disaggregates candidate selection processes into four areas—the selectorate, candidacy, centralization, and voting vs. appointment—and examine how two major Korean parties have chosen their candidates in the last three elections. By doing so, we demonstrate that in Korea's under-institutionalized parties, where party organizations have been overshadowed by individual personalities, implementation of quotas can easily be subordinated to the clientelistic incentives of party leaders. While the parties' centralized and exclusionary candidate selection procedures give party leaders a great deal of latitude to implement quotas, a better gender balance in the set of candidates is rarely a top priority for leaders in parties where personalism prevails. We argue that this explains why the quotas in Korea have been ineffective.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 June 2016

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