Will Brazil fall into the “Korean trap”?

A woman sitting on the balcony of a hotel in the Cantagalo slum in Rio, Brazil

On March 21st, former Brazilian President Michel Temer was arrested at his home in São Paulo for alleged corruption and then taken to Rio de Janeiro for preventive imprisonment. At this time, it is less than four months since the end of the presidency. Re-associating former President Lula, who was still serving his sentence in prison, and former impeached President Joseph Rousseff, can’t help but speculate: Will the former Brazilian presidents fall into a “Korean trap”?

What is the “Korean trap”
The so-called “Korean trap” means that since the democratic transition in 1987, almost all of South Korea’s presidents have been unable to retreat after leaving their posts.

Quan Douhuan, who stepped down in 1988, was sentenced to death (later pardon); Lu Taiyu, who stepped down in 1993, was sentenced to 22 years in prison (later pardoned); Jin Yongsan, who stepped down in 1998, and Kim Dae-jung, who stepped down in 2003, all of them He was imprisoned for accepting bribes; Roh Moo-hyun, who stepped down in 2008, committed suicide on suspicion of corruption. Half a year after Park Yong-hye was sentenced to 24 years in prison, his former president, Lee Myung-bak, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for corruption, completely dispelling the only illusion that Koreans have for the “president who can end.”

The “doom” of the Brazilian president also began with the transformation of democracy. In 1990, Fernando Collor became the first directly elected president of Brazil after the transition. Due to the lack of support from the majority in the parliament, both of Koror’s policy plans have failed, and I have also fallen into a corruption scandal. The corruption case originated from the cronies of Coral, Paul Cesar, who was suspected of using improper means to raise funds during the Kolol campaign.

On March 21st, former Brazilian President Michel Temer was arrested in his home in São Paulo for alleged corruption.

As the investigation deepened, it eventually led to corruption clues such as improper use of the president and the construction of luxury gardens. In September 1992, the Brazilian House of Representatives passed the impeachment case with an overwhelming majority of 441 votes to 38. Collor was suspended; three months later, he was finally impeached by the Senate. Although he was released without guilty two years later, his subsequent election to public office was unsuccessful.

In July 2017, former Brazilian President Lula was sentenced to nine years and six months for corruption, and the legendary president known as the “son of Brazil” failed to “finish.” In the previous August 2016, Lula’s successor, Rotherf, who was also the president of the Labor Party, was successfully impeached by the Brazilian Senate.

Lula and Rousseff belong to the Labour Party, and the former President Terem, who was arrested, belongs to the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party. Thus, since the realization of the democratic transition, Brazil has two impeached presidents (Kolor and Rousseff) and two imprisoned presidents (Lula and Temer), seemingly plunged into the “Korean trap.” “the trend of.

Is such a similar fate just a coincidence? Perhaps after an in-depth understanding of the development of the two countries, we can find some answers.

Similar trajectories from different countries
Brazil and South Korea, one south, one north, one west and one east branch, “the two ends of the earth”, the history, language, culture, religion, ethnicity and other aspects are quite different. However, there are many similarities between the two countries. The coincidence that can be found is far more than the “doom” of the presidents of the two countries.

For half a century, the two countries have not only similar economic development roads, but also a miraculous synchronization of the political development model: the establishment of military polity through military coups in the early 1960s, and the successful realization of democracy in the mid-to-late 1980s. Transformation.

In May 1961, Park Chung-hee and others launched a military coup, effectively controlled the Korean regime, and established a military-led authoritarian regime. Three years later, a military coup took place in Brazil, the elected literati government was overthrown, and the military authoritarian regime was established. Subsequently, the two countries also promoted their economic development through the “bureaucrat-authoritarian” model led by the military regime.

The outstanding feature of this model is “strong administration – weak politics”, that is, strengthening administrative power, using technocrats to replace politicians, and at the same time suppressing labor and social movements through political high pressure, in order to seek national autonomy in economic regulation. Sexuality, solve inflation problems, attract foreign investment, and stimulate economic growth.

During the military’s authoritarian regime, both countries achieved rapid growth. From 1968 to 1974, Brazil’s gross national product doubled, with an average annual growth rate of 11%, resulting in a “Brazilian miracle”; during this period, South Korea also achieved economic growth and created the “Hanjiang Miracle”. And thus became one of the four little dragons in Asia. After more than 20 years of military authoritarian rule, the two countries began to transform into a democratic government. In 1985, the elected civilian government of Brazil was sworn in, marking the end of the military regime, and Brazil successfully raised the sails of democracy. Two years later, in 1987, South Korea also initiated a democratic transformation.

For Brazil and South Korea, although the process of democratic transformation is not smooth, it has not been as big as other transition countries. According to the evaluation of the international mainstream democracy index Polity IV, a country with a score of 6 to 10 points can be defined as a democracy. Brazil has basically maintained 8 points after the transition, and South Korea scored 6 points before 1997. Also settled at 8 points. Therefore, it can be said that the two countries are steadily moving forward on the road of democratic consolidation. Why did the democratic system that had been placed high hopes still fail to prevent corruption?

Why can’t democracy suppress corruption?
As an emerging democracy, the Brazilian and South Korean presidents have repeatedly exposed corruption scandals, and their common roots include the following:

First, the inertia constraint of the economic development model. During the period of the military authoritarian government, the economic development mode of Brazil and South Korea is a typical “developmental state model”. The core features include a highly cohesive economic administration, good political and business cooperation, and selective industrial policies. However, due to the government’s deep embedded economic activities, serious bureaucracy and corruption have inevitably arisen. After the democratic transformation in the 1980s, the reform of the economic model was relatively lagging. The two countries did not transition from a state-led economic system to a market-oriented economic system until the 1990s. The relative lag of economic transformation and the drawbacks of the original model make it difficult for politicians to truly get rid of complex political and economic relations networks, and corruption is ultimately difficult to avoid.

The beginning of the “nightmare” of the presidents may be the beginning of the people’s “good dreams.”

Second, the drawbacks of the strong presidential model. After the democratic transition, both Brazil and South Korea chose the presidential system. Under the strong presidential system, the president’s power lacks effective restraint, leaving a lot of room for corruption. After the president stepped down, the relevant investigations and prosecutions were actually implemented. For example, in the case of the arrested Temer, he served as the president of Brazil from August 2016 to December 2018. During his term of office, he was sued for multiple corruptions. However, according to Brazilian law, if a lawsuit against an incumbent president is to be tried in court, it must be authorized by the House of Representatives. Because Temel’s Brazilian Democratic Movement Party and its allies are deeply rooted in the parliament, the lawsuit against him has not been filed for trial within his term of office.

Third, the impact of a weak party system. After the transformation of Brazil and South Korea, the political party system is not well developed and the degree of institutionalization is low. In 1992, the number of “effective parties” in the Brazilian House of Representatives reached 8.5, three times higher than that of “the long-standing existence of consolidating democracy”, basically belonging to the “fragmented multi-party system” defined by political scientist Satori. Since the transition of democracy, Korean political parties have changed frequently. Political parties are often loose alliances formed around the charisma or social relations of leaders. It is difficult to form effective constraints on the elected president in terms of system and organization.

The case of Brazil and South Korea seems to indicate that the democratic model failed to prevent corruption. But more importantly, although the “Leviathan” in the cage will be headed out from time to time, the people holding the whip can always drive it back. In this sense, the beginning of the “nightmare” of the presidents may be the beginning of the people’s “good dreams.”