Authoritarian governments are characterized by continuity in leadership, insulation from societal pressures, well-established and integrated interest groups and the power to enforce decisions without the need to respond to the interests of minorities or the disenfranchised. In weak authoritarian governments, where political authority is maintained through personalistic, patron-client relations, tend to be ineffective at economic and social reform. The maintenance of political power often depends on the discretionary use of public funds so that any rational reform of public finances becomes irrational. Such regimes are likely to have more difficulty imposing reform than consultative democracies.
Kim Young Sam, came into office as President of South Korea in 1993. He is the first non-military president in three decades, but there is little sign that this actually means a change in authoritarian government for this tradition-bound, class conscious society. Many of Mr Kim's supporters are backers of the previous regimes, and the exercise in democracy may remain a veneer masking an autocratic system in which there is still not individual franchise for all or elective government at the grass roots.
Autocracies depend on the cadre of officials, police and military officers who regularly obey orders. Sometimes the obedience grows out of ideological or religious convictions, but usually it is enough that the relevant officials and officers believe that they will be punished if they fail to carry out orders and rewarded if they do. When they stop believing in the invincibility of the authoritarian regime, the autocrats will lose their power.
Strong authoritarian governments tend to be relatively successful in imposing the short-term costs of economic reform.