Never mind the China model.
South Korea demonstrates that emerging Asian states need not sacrifice democracy for the benefits of economic growth, serving “as a unique role model not only for its economic accomplishments, but its political shift from authoritarian rule to a vibrant democracy,” writes Balbina Y. Hwang, a Visiting Professor at Georgetown University:
This development lesson offers a stark contrast to China’s singularly economic focused success. Under the auspices of the NAI, the South Korean government has established several organizations and programs designed to draw Southeast Asian bureaucrats and technocrats to Seoul to study Korea’s developmental achievements more closely.
South Korea is singularly well-placed to exercise a pro-democracy soft power on behalf of ASEAN’s democratic axis, says Hwang, formerly a Senior Special Advisor for East Asian affairs at the U.S. State Department:
An increasingly assertive China has driven smaller countries in the region to greater cooperation under the auspices of ASEAN, and moved them closer not only to the United States, but to South Korea, Japan, and Australia. But because many Southeast Asian countries’ have an uneasy history of colonialism under Japan and the West, South Korea carries less historical baggage.