Political Crisis in Central Government and Bureaucrats’ Responses in Provincial Government: The Impact of Governors’ Characteristics

Published date01 December 2022
Date01 December 2022
Subject MatterArticles
Political Research Quarterly
2022, Vol. 75(4) 11861200
© The Author(s) 2021
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/10659129211053625
Political Crisis in Central Government and
BureaucratsResponses in Provincial
Government: The Impact of Governors
Soonae Park
and Don S. Lee
Scholars have debated the question of what inf‌luences bureaucratspolicy implementation in provincial government,
some taking the top-down and some the bottom-up approaches. However, less well understood in this debate is the
impact of governorscharacteristics, particularly at a time of national political crisis. Given that their roles have been
proven important for the performance of provincial governments, this is a signif‌icant oversight. To f‌ill this gap, we
examine the effect of governorspolitical characteristics on provincial bureaucratsresponses to the center by leveraging
a unique setting, that of presidential impeachment in South Korea. Using original survey data on 655 civil servants from all
17 provincial governments, gathered as part of a representative survey, we f‌ind that bureaucrats are less responsive to
the central government after impeachment. Our results show that this difference between pre- and post-impeachment is
driven by several political characteristics, such as governorspolitical ideology and tenure in off‌ice. Our f‌indings have
implications for the role of governors in intergovernmental relations and the management of provincial governments
political crisis, governors, bureaucratic response, experiment, South Korea
In the f‌ield of intergovernmental relations, there have been
debates over the effectiveness of centralized control.
typical viewpoint is that, given the hierarchical nature of
the relationship, the central government is able to induce
lower-level governments to respond to its instruments of
control (Chubb 1985;Wood 1991). Often, the national
government can leverage its f‌inancial or legal superiority
over its provincial counterpart to force its preferred policy
to be implemented at the lower level. However, there has
been growing research examining the role of local actors
in the intergovernmental relationship. These scholars il-
luminate the centrality of local factors and circumstances
in determining the effectiveness of central direction over
local governance (Hedge and Scicchitano 1994;Riccucci
2005;Scholz, Twombly, and Headrick 1991;Whitford
2007;Wood 1992).
While existing studies contribute knowledge about di-
verse control mechanisms from the center and the role of
local factors in intergovernmental relations (Miller 1992;
Moe 1985;Romzek 1990;Wood 1988), there is little re-
search investigating the impact of provincialgovernments
political leadership. Much of political science research
tends to focus on governorsbehavior and electoral ac-
countabilityin the citizen-politician linkage (Alt,Bueno de
Mesquita, and Rose 2011;Ferraz and Finan 2011)rather
than their behavior and responses in the central-local
government linkage. In this article, we f‌ill this gap by
examining the impact of governorscharacteristics on
centralized control over lower-level governments through
the lenses of bureaucrats in provincial governments, par-
ticularly in the context of national political crisis. Specif-
ically, we look into the three political characteristics of
governors as elected politicians, that should be closely
Graduate School of Public Administration, Seoul National University,
Graduate School of Governance and Department of Public
Administration, Sung Kyun Kwan University, Korea
Corresponding Author:
Don S. Lee, Graduate School of Governance and Department of Public
Administration, Sung Kyun Kwan University, Korea.
Email: don.lee@g.skku.edu

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