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This paper seeks to analyze the reasons for democratization movements in the Republic of Korea (ROK) in the late 1970s/early 1980s and mid to late 1980s leading to different political outcomes and democratization success. The analysis will dive into the history and politics leading up to the 1980s, and the context of political movements historically, but will focus on the 1980s. It will trace the context of the early democracy movement leading to the Gwangju Uprising in 1980. Then, it will seek to understand the revitalized democratization movement that came to a head in 1987 in Seoul leading to the beginning of the democratic experiment apparent in South Korea today. This paper seeks to compare and contrast the difference in anti-government protestors/pro-democracy advocates’ and government action that led to completely different outcomes: one ending in a violent repression and the other in regime capitulation and reform. Understanding this within the South Korean case will improve our understanding of democratization in the face of state opposition and points to potential strategies in democratization within the realm of international politics.

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