Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Post -Cold War civil -military relations in South Korea: Toward a postmodern military?
by Kim, Kijoo, Ph.D., State University of New York at Buffalo, 2009, 259; 3356117
Abstract (Summary)

The primary goal of this dissertation is to assess the theoretical usefulness of Moskos, Williams, and Segal’s postmodern military model by examining whether the South Korean case fits into their work. Also, this dissertation aims at expanding the scope of cases analyzed in the postmodern military model by adding the first Asian case as well as developing a theoretical framework of the model. In this dissertation, several theoretical and empirical puzzles are called into question: “Why did the postmodern military evolve in some advanced democracies but not in others? Why did some countries, particularly Israel, remain modern or late modern military types in spite of the end of the Cold War and their long-standing democratic systems? Is the postmodern model applicable to all militaries in general and to the South Korean military in particular? Lastly, is the South Korean military moving toward a postmodern military?” By developing the analytical framework offered by the postmodern military model, this dissertation attempts to answer those questions by evaluating to what extent the South Korean military has changed and what factors played a critical role in changing post-Cold War civil-military relations in South Korea.

Unlike the postmodern military model that considers the change of perceived threat only as a core explanatory variable, this dissertation sheds light on interactive effects of threat perception, political change, and social values on military transformation and civil-military relations. This dissertation argues that the degree of threat perception, democracy, and postmodern values in a country determines the overall extent and nature of military type and societal-military relations. As states experience decreasing threat perception and deepening democracy and postmodern values, the extent of postmodern military increases. By contrast, when the perceived threat is high and the extents of democracy and postmodern values are low, then the characteristics of modern military will remain. By employing a qualitative research methodology, including historical analysis and a field research (interview and survey), this dissertation has examined how the South Korean Defense Forces (SKDF) has been transformed and how it has adjusted its relationship with society to the changing internal and external environments in South Korea.

The evidence collected in the South Korean case study fails to conform to the development of the postmodern military model, since properties of the late-modern military prevail in the post-Cold War civil-military relations in South Korea. This study discovered that the most influential factor for understanding the South Korean civil-military relations was the military threat from North Korea. Under the unchanged security circumstance, the SKDF retained its modern or late-modern organizational structure and values in order to keep or enhance military effectiveness, believing them to be central elements for defeating an enemy. At the same time, this dissertation revealed that democracy and social values do matter in explaining South Korean societal-military relationship. These findings suggest that the theoretical argument of the postmodern model is not sufficient to fully explain the dynamics of military transformation and societal-military relationships. As this dissertation claims, therefore, the three explanatory variables of threat perception, political change, and social values should be used when accounting for military transformation and civil-military relations.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Welch, Claude E.
Commitee: Eagles, Munroe D., Johnson, Gregg B., Moore, Brenda L.
School: State University of New York at Buffalo
Department: Political Science
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 70/05, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Political science, Military studies
Keywords: Civil-military relations, Korea, Military, Post-Cold War
Publication Number: 3356117
ISBN: 9781109159332
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