[FOUNTAIN]Interest groups are taking over

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[FOUNTAIN]Interest groups are taking over

The term “overdeveloped state” does not mean a country has grown too powerful. It is a type of social model that Pakistani scholar Hamza Alavi came up with in 1972. He used the phrase to describe why authoritarian regimes easily took over developing countries that had earned independence from colonial rule. During occupation, the invaders create various authoritative agencies to control the colony, and even after independence is attained, these agencies remain to oppress the fledgling society. Military, police and bureaucratic organizations established by colonial rulers are the quintessential symbols of an overdeveloped state.
With such an oppressive structure in place, the leader who comes to power after independence can easily fall into the trap of autocracy. An overdeveloped state is one with a bloated national authority that is not proportional to civil society.
This is how in 1985, Korea University Professor Choi Jang-jip described the birth of the Republic of Korea after its independence from Japanese colonial rule. In the 1980s, you had to know the meaning of the “overdeveloped state” to be considered a member of the intelligentsia.
In Korea’s case, anti-communist ideology and strategic economic development combined with Alavi’s model. In the process of establishing an anti-communist regime, a strong state authority came into power to enforce the social order. The country was ruled by a bureaucratic government, which helped undermine the functions of party politics and the National Assembly.
The idea of an overdeveloped state was once considered necessary to understanding Korean society. But the phrase is no longer used as often now, largely because the society has matured.
Instead, in the so-called “Participatory Administration,” interest groups have a louder voice than authorities. Truckers have paralyzed routes nationwide, and labor unions have thrown Molotov cocktails during demonstrations. Environmental and civil organizations have hindered nationally funded projects. Even the civil servants have their own unions. Everywhere in society, people are ready to act as a group when their interests are at stake, almost instinctively.
The public authority is retreating, and interest groups are advancing to fill the void. Perhaps we might soon hear more about an “overdeveloped interest group” theory.


by Nahm Yoon-ho

The writer is a deputy city news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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