From collective action to impeachment: Political opportunities of the candlelight protests in South Korea

Seohee Kwak*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Candlelight protests were held in 2016 and 2017 in South Korea. Hundreds of thousands of people gathered downtown with candles in their hands, and it is widely recognized as an unprecedented collective action in the history of Korean politics. This study analyzes how the candlelight protests developed and achieved the impeachment of the president. Drawing on political opportunity theory, this paper examines how the political opportunity was formulated in the process and outcome of these candlelight protests. This paper identifies three properties that served as enabling conditions embedded in this case: (1) political freedoms guaranteed in the existing formal institutions; (2) political elites in alignment with the protesters and the rule of law; and (3) low risk of state repression of law-abiding collective action. Overall, the political opportunities were sufficiently established in Korean society for citizens to take collective action and their protests led to the desired outcome.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-130
Number of pages24
JournalKorea Observer
Volume52
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2021

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