ISSN : 0023-3900
This paper examines the generalization process of minjujuui (the Korean translation of democracy) to better understand the conceptual history of democracy in modern Korea. We first argue that a proper understanding of democracy’s conceptual history in Korea and other non-Western societies must include an analysis of the initial popularization and standardization of the translated term for what once was a foreign word and concept. Unfortunately, this crucial research area has been largely neglected to date. To fill this academic lacuna, our study divides the generalization process of minjujuui into four periods based on the frequency of the term’s use in Korean print media and then subjects each period to a thorough quantitative and qualitative analysis. As a result of this complementary approach, we find that in Korea, the generalization of the translated word minjujuui was accompanied by ideologicalization, politicization, and temporalization of the concept of democracy itself. We further argue that because the key factors that drove this generalization process derived from internal and external forces in Korea, the intensity of the three other processes was even greater than in the West where the concept of democracy originated.