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This article aims to analyze the democratization process in South Korea and its close ties to changes in civil society and social movements. Civil society in South Korea has developed under particular historical conditions such as a historically state-centered tradition, Japanese colonialism, the global geopolitical context, social cleavages caused by regionalism, and a civil culture of familism and authoritarianism. The formation of multiple and diverse relationships between the state and civil society after the June Uprising of 1987 seems to have been very important in the process of South Korean democratization. The differentiation of civil society and social movements became the turning point in the process of the diffusion of democratic issues throughout civil society. The growth of civil movement organizations has contributed to democratic consolidation. However, their growth has depended not on grassroots democratic principles, but mainly on “discourse politics” using mass media.