This research examines how relative deprivation theory can be applied to study the success of protest movements and their subsequent impact on the process of democratization of the South Korean state. This study hopes to provide a more comprehensive approach to how the role of protests in the development of a democratic state is explained within the field of political science. Utilizing both a quantitative and qualitative research design, this work applied a case study analysis as well as a supplemental data analysis regarding the success of Korean protest movements and their impact on democratization as well as global views of democratization as previously mentioned. For the case study analysis, I focused on four protest movements in South Korea and applied relative deprivation theory in each case. Then, I defined five metrics for protest success based on my previous analysis and used these metrics to conduct a comparative analysis regarding the short and long term success of each protest movement. For the data analysis, I utilized Systemic Peace's Polity Project Series V dataset in order to quantify changes in the qualities of the regime over time, on a scale ranging from highly authoritarian to highly democratic regime qualities. Based on this mixed-mode analysis, I find that protest movements that were linked to progressive deprivation led to most successful shifts towards democratic regime qualities in the long-term. This project is significant to the field as it will address criticisms in previously discounted protest theory as well as explore the changing narrative of democratization in the modern world and dispel historical misconceptions of political culture in East Asia, focusing on Korea.

Thesis Completion




Thesis Chair/Advisor

Kim, Myunghee


Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)


College of Sciences


School of Politics, Security and International Affairs

Degree Program

Political Science



Access Status

Open Access

Release Date