Whether Confucianism is compatible with liberal democracy has been a topic of heated debate among scholars and politicians alike, but with little meticulous empirical analysis. The incompatibility thesis, represented by the Asian value argument, suggests that as a political culture Confucianism hinders the deepening of democracy in Confucian Asian countries. The compatibility or convergence thesis, in contrast, argues that Confucianism is compatible with, and even compensates for the shortcomings of liberal democracy. This article investigates the relationship between South Koreans’ attachment to Confucian values and their attitudes towards a (non)democratic form of government. Unlike previous studies that treat Confucianism as a unitary value system, this article argues that Confucianism is multifaceted – its teachings on social hierarchy, morality, primacy of community, and social harmony – have different relationships with democratic and authoritarian values. This empirical analysis demonstrates that, at least in South Korea, certain Confucian values are compatible with democratic values of political participation and individual rights and liberty. In contrast to previous literature that focuses on institutional and performance variables as key variables that explain individual attachment to (non)democratic forms of government, this study illustrates that culture has consistent and long-lasting impacts on individual political orientations.
Ⅰ. Core Elements of Confucianism
Ⅱ. Confucianism and Democracy: Competing Arguments
Ⅲ. Data and Measurements
Ⅳ. Empirical Analysis