Apologies for the small size, but if you can see the pink and orange blobs for Korean politicians that were originally civil servants or in the military respectively, then you get the idea.
The graph is from this article in the Economist magazine, which asks the question of why professional paths to the top vary so much, but unfortunately only mentions South Korea when it says…
Countries often have marked peculiarities. Egypt likes academics; South Korea, civil servants; Brazil, doctors (see chart 2). Some emerging-market countries are bedeviled by large numbers of criminals, even if this doesn’t usually show up in their ‘Who’s Who’ records.
…yet is no less fascinating for all that. If I reluctantly confine my brief discussion to South Korea here though, then that predominance of civil servants among Korean politicians should be no surprise to anyone familiar with its Twentieth Century history (see here and here), and I’d expect to find much the same in other postwar “developmental states” also, particularly Japan that is their model and the former colonial power of most.
But of course their importance goes back much further than that (see here), as indeed it does in China, which has historically provided Korea with many governmental and political models to emulate. Hence the Economist is quite correct in painting Chinese Communist Party officials with (literally) the same brush also, for despite their modern ideological labels they are in many senses merely performing what are really quite timeless roles.
Other than that, I confess to being surprised at the number of politicians with military backgrounds, even though I’ve written a great deal about the pervasiveness of military culture in Korean daily life. One shouldn’t make too many generalizations from so little information though, and so I’d hesitate to make any links between the low numbers of politicians that were formerly lawyers and Korean legal culture also, although I’m certainly tempted!
(For more posts in the “Korean Sociological Image” series, see here)