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Towards a digital democracy in South Korea? An analysis of top-down model of netizens´ political participation

Bárbara Inés Bavoleo, University of Buenos Aires, Gino Germani Research Institute

In the context of information and knowledge society –characterized by the emergency of a new social structure related to the development modality called informationalism*– interest in the posibilities of deepening the participatory and deliberative constituents of democracies (re)emerge with the concept of “digital democracy”. This concept postulates the use of information and communication technologies in the public domain to facilitate and improve information flows and exchanges between citizens and political leaders. In essence, this notion of “digital democracy” refers to a participatory democracy where modes of action are (re)configured in terms of technological advances.

In this scenario, the citizenry political participation is not restricted to the issue of vote in electoral contests or intervention mediated by political parties and interest groups, but also includes direct participation embodied in the contact with public servants, participation in debates, mobilization of public opinion, among others, and ultimately, participation in the process of decision making and policy development. Cyberspace, with its breakdown of spatio-temporal order and its ability to provide people with multiple information –a prerequisite for political participationconstitutes a prominent area for online participation.

In the relevant literature, online participation is often classified into two models or types: topdown model, where the initiative of citizenry participation comes from government, and the bottom-up model where the initiative comes from netizens.

The main objective of this research is to investigates the Korean top-down model by analyzing the Web sites of the Presidency (Cheong Wa Dae) and the National Assembly in order to identify strategies developed to encourage participation and, ultimately, to reach a digital democracy. It also provides for the type of participation sought, that is, if the trend toward inclusion of citizens in the process of forming the government agenda and policy development or if they are encouraged to take part only in the evaluation of transparency of management.

*Defined by Manuel Castells as a technological paradigm based on the augmentation of the human capacity of information processing and communication made possible by the revolutions in microelectronics, software, and genetic engineering.

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