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“The Effects of Village Development Programs on Authoritarian and Democratic Elections” by Jean Hong, Sunkyoung Park, and Hyunjoo Yang

July 15, 2020 @ 9:00 am - 10:00 am

Author: Jean Hong (HKUST), Sunkyoung Park (Inchen National University), and Hyunjoo Yang (Sogang University).

Abstract: Does a nation-wide rural development program under a dictatorial regime have long-term political consequences, even after democratization? We investigate the political impact of the cash transfers from the Park Chung-hee regime's large-scale rural development program in the 1970s in South Korea. For empirical analysis, we digitize novel micro-data on rural cash transfers from administrative records in the 1970s, along with township-level election outcome data ranging from the 1970s and up to 2010s. We show that rural towns that received larger cash transfers in the 1970s voted more for the authoritarian incumbent party in the next legislative election. We also show that the political effect of an authoritarian developmental program persisted forty years later in the 2012 presidential election, which democratically elected Park Geun-hye, the daughter of Park Chung-hee. This study offers micro-level evidence showing how a development program benefits the authoritarian ruler without an explicit vote-exchange arrangement and how it may shadow in the politics of a consolidated democracy in the long run.

Discussants: Mark Dincecco (Michigan), Florian Hollenbach (Texas A&M), and Xiaobo Lü (University of Texas, Austin).

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