Is Vladimir Putin’s regime going the same way as Park Chung-hee’s in its final years? Let’s test this hypothesis. Authoritarian leaders tend to go through the same stages–eerily so. Can we predict what will happen with Putin by looking at what happened to Park?

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Viy (‘67, adaptation of Ukrainian-born Nikolai Gogol’s novella, set in Kyiv)

Savage Hunt for King Stakh (follows ‘wild hunt’ folklore motif)

The Vampire Family (adaptation of Aleksey Tolstoy’s The Family of Vourdalak; example of necrorealism) 

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Putin and similarities to PCH

  • (March, 2000) Putin elected
    • Joke around Moscow: Putin says Russia’s new model of development will be Korea. He just hasn’t decided whether it’s North Korea or South Korea
  • Hypothesis: Both started with benign intentions that devolved into The Dark Side under pressures to remain in power beyond their expiration dates
    • I have no proof of that. Maybe both were playing the long game and intended to be in power for life. Or they may have entered power with high ideals that turned into higher purpose–which leads to dark tendencies.
    • Both gradually got more authoritarian with each re-election
TopicPark Chung-heeVladimir Putin
Came to power after a period of political chaos and disenchantment with pluralism (democracy).
Started out as being part of the liberal camp and then went straight to the right when they saw opportunity.
Second Republic (Dec 29, 1960)more violence and vote riggingNew gov’t still full of corrupted personnel from previous regimeGov’t posts were purely based on connections, not merit or competencyNarrative that Putin restored stability after the Yeltsin Era.
People forget that tanks fired on Russian Parliament in 1993.
Statist Anatoly Sobchak. Tried coups against Yeltsin. This prompted Yeltsin to protect himself and in the process brought up Putin, who took over a lot of Sobchak’s team and became the new statists.
Bespredel – Title of a 1989 prison drama that meant anarchic freedom and unaccountable authority
Public became disenchanted with democracy.
Putin came to power with the slogan “the dictatorship of law”
Modernization leap vs. Price paidCurrent debates about PCH and SK are similar to debates about Stalin and USSR
Rhie Won-Bok writes, “two choices were before him—bread and democracy. He chose bread. True, bread may have been a mere justification for strengthening Pak’s dictatorial regime, but there are many who recognize that his strong economic development policies, backed by his dictatorial power, enabled the Koreans to break free from the chains of poverty”
Russia’s economic recovery mostly came from Yeltsin’s structural reforms, cheap western credit, and fossil fuel money.
Unlike Korea, Russia has abundant natural resources, so not much impetus to becoming an industrial/tech economy. A Petrol State.
(1997) Putin wrote a doctoral thesis advocating the need for “national champions” by nationalizing or controlling natural resources.

Ushered in an era of prosperity and stability
Middle class grew
Grew at the beginning but started to have its first slowdown in the late ‘60s. So… DICTATORSHIP!Grew during first term and has dwindled since 2012. So… WAR!
Found ways to stay in power beyond what the constitution statesYushin Constitution2 four-year terms (2000-2008)Dmitry Medvedev (Putin’s Robin)Putin prime ministerAmendment lengthened presidential terms2 six-year terms (2012-2024)2020 ConstitutionPutin can stay in power until 2036
Concocting a national myth/religion/ideologyYushin ideology (see below
Said Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was his role model
Putin saw nationalism as an ideology to centralize control. Role model is Tsar Alexander III. He also told PGH that PCH was his role model.
Modeling the West in modernization and then rejecting its valuesAt first intended to copy the tech of the west and Japan
Do it the Korean way
Reformers tried to emulate the West and learn as much as possible. When success wasn’t immediate, public became disillusioned, pushing it towards nationalism.
Extreme nationalismGive the State a quasi-religious position. Over-simplifies politics, so people don’t have to think. In fact, independent thought is the first casualty.Creates fanatics Similar to chaebols and cultsCriticizing the State and its leaders is like criticizing your religious leader. Critics are haters and traitorsPromoting Korean cultureImplementing an official nationalistic history that is still in place todayInteresting that Putin published a 2012 article “Russia: The Ethnicity Issue,” which argued AGAINST ethno-nationalism. Contrast from PCH and–well–Hitler.
But hold on there!
The excuse for invading Ukraine to protect ethnic Russians is similar to Hitler’s excuse for invading Poland and other eastern territories to protect ethnic Germans.
Regime of veteransMilitarySiloviki (except Medvedev)
Concentrated power in the executivePost-Soviet Russia’s debates weren’t between capitalism and communism. It was between the statists and the pluralists.
The statists won (again).
Reduced the legislature to a rubber stamp
Made elections just formal affairsThe 2020 constitutional vote was called the most manipulative in the country’s history
Politicized the judiciaryRevolutionary Courts (July 12, 1961 – May 10, 1962) Crackdown on student activists and organized crimeBusinessmen under Sygman Rhee
Politicized law enforcement
Tried to assassinate opponentsKim Dae-jungAlexei Navalny (2020)Early in USSR, secret poison lab, “Kamera,” developed undetectable poisons that were tested on gulag prisonersViktor Yushchenko (2004, politician, dioxin)Anna Politkovskaya (2004, journalist, poisoned tea, survived but was shot dead 2 years later on Putin’s b’day)Alexander Litvinenko (2006, former FSB officer, polonium-210 in tea, one alleged poisoner was elected to parliament)Sergey Skripal (2018, former intelligence officer, “Novichok” nerve agent, poisoners were previously awarded Russia’s highest state honor by Putin himself)Vladimir Kara-Murza (2015, 2017, activist, organ failure from heavy metals)Petr Verzilov (2018, Russian-Canadian unofficial Pussy Riot spokesperson, later helped Navalny be airlifted to Germany)
Cracked down on dissent(1974-75) Emergency resolutions banning criticism of Yushin Constitution or the regimeJail time for criticizing the war and the government
Cracked down on artists and intellectualsArt and Culture Ethics Committee of the South Korean Federation of Cultural Organizations (1975)
Blacklist of 261 “decadent” protest songs, folk ballads and rock and psychedelic music, including:Blowing in the WindI Shot the SheriffDelilaElvis songs
Also cracking down on marijuana, long hair, and short skirts
Censoring Korean songs since 1966
Pussy Riot
Brought state-owned economies under tight control
Intervened in the private sector
Concentration of money and power in cronies in security services (Silovarchies)Different from oligarchies
Security and armed forces dominate politics and big business
Intimidate/expropriate business rivals throughintelligence networks,
state prosecutorsRecent stripping of power of prosecutors
armed force
Resistant to change (need incumbent to stay in power)During Yeltsin, he had to get support of the oligarchs and media empires to stay in power and stave off the communists trying to return to power, undercutting his values. 
Those same people jumped to Putin.
Seeds of their own destruction:Longer in power, more dangerousUnstable
FactionsTurf battlesConflicting economic interestsCorrupt vs. purists
Lack safety valves that plurality gives. Those who are locked out take to the streets.SK – student rallies almost every year from the 1960s-70s despite crackdownsKyiv’s Orange Revolution (2004)
Strong economy legitimizes in the short term
Middle class that grew from that economy starts to demand pluralism
Weakened economy quickly delegitimizes(1978) Rigged parliamentary election & weakening economyProtests revivedRuling elite lost enthusiasm for repression

Yushin ideology

  • Need for strong authority
  • Hierarchical subordination
    • Fucked-up Confucianism
  • Social harmony based on national consciousness
  • Authoritarianism is naturally Korean/Asian culture
    • Similar to Juche and Maoism in how their Lenin-Marxist ideologies distinguished them as fitting Asian cultures
      • In reality, just excuses to snatch and maintain power
  • Western advancement without Western values (similar to Donghak)
    • Do it the Korean way
    • Attached a foreign component to modernization, implying that social liberalization is not related to economic modernization. It’s a foreign concept that can be surgically removed.
    • Technical modernization = Universal
    • Social modernization = Western (foreign)
    • You still see this today
      • Keep in mind that the opposition didn’t necessarily promote democratic values as well. They came from the same authoritarian culture. (Michael Breen)
      • “South Korea’s democratic transition in 1987 was a conservative one, mainly because critical decisions were made by political elites from the top-down without incorporating voices from the bottom-up” (Kim Sun-chul)
      • (1990) Democratization was 16th out of 18 most pressing issues (The Chosun Ilbo and the Gallup Institute)