History of South Korea

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The History of South Korea formally begins with the establishment of South Korea on 15 August 1948, although Syngman Rhee had declared the establishment in Seoul on 13 August.

In the aftermath of the Japanese occupation of Korea which ended with Japan's defeat in World War II in 1945, Korea was divided at the 38th parallel north in accordance with a United Nations arrangement, to be administered by the Soviet Union in the north and the United States in the south. The Soviets and Americans were unable to agree on the implementation of Joint Trusteeship over Korea. This led in 1948 to the establishment of two separate governments, each claiming to be the legitimate government of all of Korea. Eventually, following the Korean War, the two separate governments stabilized into the existing political entities of North and South Korea.

South Korea's subsequent history is marked by alternating periods of democratic and autocratic rule. Civilian governments are conventionally numbered from the First Republic of Syngman Rhee to the contemporary Sixth Republic. The First Republic, arguably democratic at its inception, became increasingly autocratic until its collapse in 1960. The Second Republic was strongly democratic, but was overthrown in less than a year and replaced by an autocratic military regime. The Third, Fourth, and Fifth Republics were nominally democratic, but are widely regarded as the continuation of military rule[citation needed]. With the Sixth Republic, the country has gradually stabilized into a liberal democracy.

Since its inception, South Korea has seen substantial development in education, economy, and culture. Since the 1960s, the country has developed from one of Asia's poorest to one of the world's wealthiest nations. Education, particularly at the tertiary level, has expanded dramatically. It is said to be one of the "Four Tigers" of rising Asian states along with Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong.[1][2]


U.S. Military administration

Yeo Woon-Hyung (far right) at the US-Soviet Joint Commission (1947) alt text
Yeo Woon-Hyung (far right) at the US-Soviet Joint Commission in 1947

After Japan's surrender to the Allied Powers, division at the 38th parallel marked the beginning of Soviet and U.S. trusteeship over the North and South, respectively. This division was meant to be temporary and was first intended to return a unified Korea back to its people until the United States, United Kingdom, Soviet Union, and Republic of China could arrange a trusteeship administration. In February 1945, the issue of trusteeship for Korea was discussed at the Yalta Conference.[3][4][5] U.S. forces landed at Incheon on September 8, 1945 and established a military government shortly thereafter.[6] They were commanded by Lt. General John R. Hodge, who then took charge of the government.[7] Faced with mounting popular discontent, in October 1945 Hodge established the Korean Advisory Council. A year later, an interim legislature and interim government were established, headed by Kim Kyu-shik and Syngman Rhee respectively. However, these interim bodies lacked any independent authority or de jure sovereignty, which was still held by the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea based in China, but U.S. leaders chose to ignore its legitimacy, partly due to the belief that it was communist-aligned.[8][9]

The country in this period was plagued by political and economic chaos, which arose from a variety of causes. The aftereffects of the Japanese exploitation were still felt in the country, as in the North.[10] In addition, the U.S. military was largely unprepared for the challenge of administering the country, arriving with no knowledge of the language, culture or political situation.[8] Thus, many of their policies had unintended destabilizing effects. Waves of refugees from North Korea and returnees from abroad also helped to keep the country in turmoil.[11]

In December 1945, a conference convened in Moscow to discuss the future of Korea.[12] A 5-year trusteeship was discussed, and a US-Soviet joint commission was established. The commission met intermittently in Seoul but deadlocked over the issue of establishing a national government. In September 1947, with no solution in sight, the United States submitted the Korean question to the UN General Assembly.[3][4]

The resolution from the UN General Assembly called for a UN-supervised general election in Korea, but with the North rejecting this proposition, a general election for a Constitutional Assembly was held in the South only, in May 1948. A constitution was adopted, setting forth a presidential form of government and specifying a four-year term for the presidency. According to the provisions of the Constitution, an indirect presidential election was held in July. Syngman Rhee, as head of the new assembly, assumed the presidency and proclaimed the Republic of Korea (South Korea) on August 15, 1948.[13][14][15]

First Republic

United Nations forces withdraw from Pyongyang text
Crossing the 38th parallel. United Nations forces withdraw from Pyongyang, 1950.
General Douglas MacArthur and Syngman Rhee, Korea's first President, warmly greet one another upon the General's arrival at Kimpo Air Force Base alt text
General Douglas MacArthur and Syngman Rhee, Korea's first President, warmly greet one another upon the General's arrival at Gimpo Air Force Base

On August 15, 1948, the Republic of Korea was formally established, with Syngman Rhee as the first president. With the establishment of Rhee's government, de jure sovereignty also passed into the new government. On September 9, 1948, a communist regime, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea), was proclaimed under Kim Il Sung.[13][14][15] However, on December 12, 1948, by its resolution 195 in the Third General Assembly, the United Nations recognized the Republic of Korea as the sole legal government of Korea.[16]

In 1946, the North implemented land reforms by confiscating private property, Japanese and pro-Japanese owned facilities and factories, and placed them under state ownership.[13] Demand for land reform in the South grew strong; the land reform act was enacted in June 1949 whereby Koreans with large landholdings were obliged to divest most of their land. Approximately 40 percent of total farm households became small landowners.[17] However, because preemptive rights were given to people who had ties with landowners before liberation, many pro-Japanese groups obtained or retained properties.[13]

The country now divided, the relationship between the two Koreas turned more antagonistic as time passed. The Soviet forces having withdrawn in 1948, North Korea pressured the South to expel the United States forces but Rhee sought to align his government strongly with America, and against both North Korea and Japan.[18] Although some talks towards normalization of relations with Japan took place, they achieved little.[19] Meanwhile, the government took in vast sums of American aid, in amounts sometimes near the total size of the national budget.[20] The nationalist government also continued many of the practices of the U.S. military government. This included the brutal repression of leftist activity. In 1948, the Rhee government repressed military uprisings in Jeju, Suncheon and Yeosu.[14][21]

The main policy of the First Republic on North Korea was anti-communism and "unification by expanding northward". The South's military was neither sufficiently equipped nor prepared, but the Rhee administration was determined to reunify Korea by military force with aid from the United States. However, in the second parliamentary elections held on May 30, 1950, the majority of seats went to independents, confirming the lack of support and the fragile state of the nation.[14][22][23]

On June 25, 1950, North Korean forces invaded South Korea. Led by the U.S., a 16-member coalition undertook the first collective action under the United Nations Command (UNC).[24][25][26] Oscillating battle lines inflicted a high number of civilian casualties and wrought immense destruction. With the People's Republic of China's entry on behalf of North Korea in 1951, the fighting came to a stalemate close to the original line of demarcation. Armistice negotiations, initiated in July 1951, finally concluded on July 27, 1953 [27] at Panmunjeom, now in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). Following the armistice, the South Korean government returned to Seoul on the symbolic date of August 15, 1953.[24][28]

After the armistice, South Korea experienced political turmoil under years of autocratic leadership of Syngman Rhee, which was ended by student revolt in 1960. Throughout his rule, Rhee sought to take additional steps to cement his control of government. These began in 1952, when the government was still based in Busan due to the ongoing war. In May of that year, Rhee pushed through constitutional amendments which made the presidency a directly-elected position. To do this, he declared martial law, arrested opposing members of parliament, demonstrators, and anti-government groups. Rhee was subsequently elected by a wide margin.[29][30][31]

Rhee regained control of parliament in the 1954 elections, and thereupon fraudulently pushed through an amendment to exempt himself from the eight-year term limit, and was once again re-elected in 1956.[32] Soon after, Rhee's administration arrested members of the opposing party and executed the leader after accusing him of being a North Korean spy.[31][33]

The administration became increasingly repressive while dominating the political arena and in 1958, sought to amend the National Security Law to tighten government control over all levels of administration, including the local units.[30] These measures caused much outrage among the people, but despite the society's resentment, Rhee's administration rigged the March 15, 1960 presidential elections and won by a landslide.[34]

On that election day, protests by students and citizens against the irregularities of the election burst out in the city of Masan. Initially these protests were quelled with force by local police, but when the body of a student was found floating in the harbor of Masan,[34][35] the whole nation was enraged and protests spread nationwide. On April 19, students from various universities and schools rallied and marched in protest in the Seoul streets, in what would be called the April Revolution. The government declared martial law, called in the army, and suppressed the crowds with open fire.[34][36][37] Subsequent protests throughout the country shook the government, and after an escalated protest with university professors taking to the streets on April 25, Rhee handed in his formal resignation on April 26.[34][36]

Second Republic

After the student revolution, power was briefly held by an interim administration under the foreign minister Heo Jeong.[38] A new parliamentary election was held on July 29, 1960. The Democratic Party, which had been in the opposition during the First Republic, easily gained power and the Second Republic was established. The revised constitution dictated the Second Republic to take the form of a parliamentary cabinet system where the President took only a nominal role. This was the first and the only instance South Korea turned to a parliamentary cabinet system instead of a presidential system.[39] The assembly elected Yun Bo-seon as President and Chang Myon as the prime minister and head of government in August, 1960.[34][36][40][41]

The Second Republic saw the proliferation of political activity which had been repressed under the Rhee regime. Much of this activity was from leftist and student groups, which had been instrumental in the overthrow of the First Republic. Union membership and activity grew rapidly during the later months of 1960, including the Teachers' Union, Journalists' Union, and the Federation of Korean Trade Union.[34][36][42] Around 2,000 demonstrations were held during the eight months of the Second Republic.[43]

Under pressure from the left, the Chang government carried out a series of purges of military and police officials who had been involved in anti-democratic activities or corruption. A Special Law to this effect was passed on October 31, 1960.[44][45] 40,000 people were placed under investigation; of these, more than 2,200 government officials and 4,000 police officers were purged.[44] In addition, the government considered reducing the size of the army by 100,000, although this plan was shelved.[46]

In economic terms as well, the government was faced with mounting instability. The government formulated a five-year economic development plan, although it was unable to act on it prior to being overthrown.[36][47] The Second Republic saw the hwan lose half of its value against the dollar between fall 1960 and spring 1961.[48]

Although the government had been established with support of the people, it had failed to implement effective reforms which brought about endless social unrest, political turmoil and ultimately, the 5.16 coup d'état.

Military rule

The military coup d'état ("5.16 coup d'état") led by Major General Park Chung-hee on May 16, 1961, put an effective end to the Second Republic. Park was one of a group of military leaders who had been pushing for the de-politicization of the military. Dissatisfied with the cleanup measures undertaken by the Second Republic and convinced that the current disoriented state would collapse into communism, they chose to take matters into their own hands.[49][50][51]

The National Assembly was dissolved and military officers replaced the civilian officials. In May 1961, the junta declared "Pledges of the Revolution": anticommunism was to be the nation's main policy; friendly relations would be strengthened with allies of the free world, notably the United States; all corruption and government misdeed would be disposed and "fresh and clean morality" would be introduced; the reconstruction of a self-reliant economy would be priority; the nation's ability would be nurtured to fight against communism and achieve reunification; and that government would be returned to a democratic civilian government within two years.[49][50][51][52]

As a means to check the opposition, the military authority created the Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA) in June 1961, with Kim Jong-pil, a relative of Park, as its first director.[50][52][53] In December 1962, a referendum was held on returning to a presidential system of rule, which was allegedly passed with a 78% majority.[54] Park and the other military leaders pledged not to run for office in the next elections. However, Park became presidential candidate of the new Democratic Republican Party (DRP), which consisted of mainly KCIA officials, ran for president and won the election of 1963 by a narrow margin.[49][51][52][54]

Third Republic

Park Chung-hee in 1964 alt text

Park's administration started the Third Republic by announcing the Five Year Economic development Plan, an export-oriented industrialization policy. Top priority was placed on the growth of a self-reliant economy and modernization; "Development First, Unification Later" became the slogan of the times and the economy grew rapidly with vast improvement in industrial structure, especially in the basic and heavy chemical industries.[55][56] Capital was needed for such development, so the Park regime used the influx of foreign aid from Japan and the United States to provide loans to export businesses, with preferential treatment in obtaining low-interest bank loans and tax benefits. Cooperating with the government, these businesses would later become the chaebol.[50][55][57]

Relations with Japan were normalized by the Korea-Japan treaty ratified in June 1965.[58][59] This treaty brought Japanese funds in the form of loans and compensation for the damages suffered during the colonial era without an official apology from the Japanese government, sparking much protest across the nation.[50][55]

The government also kept close ties with the United States, and continued to receive large amounts of aid. A status of forces agreement was concluded in 1966, clarifying the legal situation of the US forces stationed there.[60][61] Soon thereafter, Korea joined the Vietnam War, eventually sending a total of 300,000 soldiers to fight alongside US and South Vietnamese troops.[50][56][62]

Economic and technological growth during this period improved the standard for living, which expanded opportunities for education. Workers with higher education were absorbed by the rapidly growing industrial and commercial sectors, and urban population surged.[63] Construction of the Gyeongbu Expressway was completed and linked Seoul to the nation's southeastern region and the port cities of Incheon and Busan. Despite the immense economic growth, however, the standard of living for city laborers and farmers was still low. Laborers were working with low wages to increase the price competitiveness for the export-oriented economy plan, and farmers were in near poverty as the government controlled prices.[55][64] As the rural economy steadily lost ground and caused dissent among the farmers, however, the government decided to implement measures to increase farm productivity and income by instituting the Saemauel Movement ("New Village Movement") in 1971. The movement's goal was to improve the quality of rural life, modernize both rural and urban societies and narrow the income gap between them.[63][65]

Park ran again in the election of 1967, taking 51.4% of the vote.[54] At the time the presidency was constitutionally limited to two terms, but a constitutional amendment was forced through the National Assembly in 1969 to allow him to seek a third term.[55][66][67] Major protests and demonstrations against the constitutional amendment broke out, with large support gaining for the opposition leader Kim Dae-jung, but Park was again re-elected in the 1971 presidential election.[68]

Parliamentary elections followed shortly after the presidential election where the opposition party garnered most of the seats, giving them the power to pass constitutional amendments. Park, feeling threatened, declared a state of national emergency on December 6, 1971.[55] In the midst of this domestic insecurity, the Nixon Doctrine had eased tensions among the world superpowers on the international scene, which caused a dilemma for Park, who had justified his regime based on the state policy of anti-communism.[55] In a sudden gesture, the government proclaimed a joint communiqué for reunification with North Korea on July 4, 1972, and held Red Cross talks in Seoul and Pyongyang. However, there was no change in government policy regarding reunification, and on October 17, 1972, Park declared martial law, dissolving the National Assembly and suspending the constitution.[65][69]

Fourth Republic

The Fourth Republic began with the adoption of the Yusin Constitution on November 21, 1972. This new constitution gave Park effective control over the parliament and the possibility of permanent presidency. The president would be elected through indirect election by an elected body, and the term of presidency was extended to six years with no restrictions on reappointment. The legislature and judiciary were controlled by the government, and educational guidelines was under direct surveillance as well. Textbooks supporting the ideology of the military government were authorized by the government, diminishing the responsibilities of the Ministry of Education.[65]

Despite social and political unrest, the economy continued to flourish under the authoritarian rule with the export-based industrialization policy. The first two five-year economic development plans were successful, and the 3rd and 4th five-year plans focused on expanding the heavy and chemical industries, raising the capability for steel production and oil refining. However, large conglomerate chaebols were continuously receiving preferential treatment and soon came to dominate the domestic market. As most of the development had come from foreign capital, most of the profit went back to repaying the loans and interest.[57][65]

Students and activists for democracy continued their demonstrations and protests for the abolition of the Yushin system and in the face of continuing popular unrest, Park's administration promulgated emergency decrees in 1974 and 1975, which led to the jailing of hundreds of dissidents. The protests grew larger and stronger, with politicians, intellectuals, religious leaders, laborers and farmers all joining in the movement for democracy. In 1978, Park was elected to another term by indirect election, which was met with more demonstrations and protests. The government retaliated by removing the opposition leader Kim Young-sam from the assembly and suppressing the activists with violent means. In 1979, mass anti-government demonstrations occurred nationwide, in the midst of this political turmoil, Park Chung-hee was assassinated by the director of the KCIA, Kim Jae-kyu, thus bringing the 18-year rule of military regime to an end.[65][69][70]

Fifth Republic

Mangwol-dong cemetery (2008)
Mangwol-dong cemetery, burial grounds of the victims of the Gwangju Democratization Movement

After the assassination of Park Chung-hee, prime minister Choi Kyu-hah took the president's role only to be usurped 6 days later by Major General Chun Doo-hwan's 1979 Coup d'état of December Twelfth.[65] In May of the following year, a vocal civil society composed primarily of university students and labor unions led strong protests against authoritarian rule all over the country. Chun Doo-hwan declared martial law on May 17, 1980, and protests escalated. Political opponents Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-pil were arrested, and Kim Young-sam was confined to house arrest.[71]

On May 18, 1980, a confrontation broke out in the city of Gwangju between protesting students of Chonnam National University and the armed forces dispatched by the Martial Law Command. The incident turned into a citywide protest that lasted nine days until May 27 and resulted in the Gwangju Massacre. Immediate estimates of the civilian death toll ranged from a few dozen to 2000, with a later full investigation by the civilian government finding nearly 200 deaths and 850 injured.[72][73][74] In June 1980, Chun ordered the National Assembly to be dissolved. He subsequently created the National Defense Emergency Policy Committee, and installed himself as a member. On 17 July, he resigned his position of KCIA Director, and then held only the position of committee member. In September 1980, President Choi Kyu-ha was forced to resign from president to give way to the new military leader, Chun Doo-hwan.

In September of that year, Chun was elected president by indirect election and inaugurated in March of the following year, officially starting the 5th Republic. A new Constitution was established with notable changes; maintaining the presidential system but limiting to a single 7 year term, strengthening the authority of the National Assembly, and conferring the responsibilities of appointing judiciary to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. However, the system of indirect election of president stayed and many military persons were appointed to highly ranked government positions, keeping the remnants of the Yushin era.[74][75]

The government promised a new era of economic growth and democratic justice. Tight monetary laws and low interest rates contributed to price stability and helped boom the economy with notable growth in the electronics, semi-conductor, and automobile industries. The country opened up to foreign investments and GDP rose as Korean exports increased. The rapid economic growth, however, widened the gap between the rich and the poor, the urban and rural regions, and also inter-regional conflicts. These dissensions, added to the hard-line measures taken against opposition against the government, gave rise to intense rural and student movement, which had continued since the beginning of the republic.[71][75]

In foreign policy, ties with Japan were strengthened by state visits by both Chun to Japan and Japanese Prime Minister Nakasone Yasuhiro to Korea. U.S. President Ronald Reagan also paid a visit, and relations with the Soviet Union and China improved.[76] The relationship with North Korea was strained at the beginning, when in 1983 a terrorist bomb attack in Burma killed 17 high-ranking officials attending memorial ceremonies and North Korea was alleged to be behind the attacks. However, in 1980 North Korea had submitted a "one nation, two system" reunification proposal which was met with a suggestion from the South to meet and prepare a unification constitution and government through a referendum. The humanitarian issue of reuniting separated families was dealt with first, and in September 1985, families from both sides of the border made cross visits to Seoul and Pyongyang in a historic event.[71][75]

The government made many efforts for cultural development: the National Museum of Korea, Seoul Arts Center, National Museum of Contemporary Art were all constructed during this time. The 1986 Asian Games were held successfully, and the bid for the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul was successful as well.[71]

Despite the economic growth and results in diplomacy, the government, having gained power by coup d'etat, was essentially a military regime.[75] Public support and trust was low when the promises for democratic justice never materialized. In the 1985 National Assembly elections, opposition parties together won more votes than the government party, clearly indicating that the public wanted a change.[77] Many started to sympathize with the protesting students. The Gwangju Massacre was never forgotten and in January 1987, when a protesting Seoul National University student died under police interrogation, public fury was immense. In April 1987, President Chun made a declaration in an attempt to overpower the opposition that measures would be taken to protect the current constitution at the end of his term, instead of contemplating constitutional reform that would call for direct election of the president. This announcement consolidated the people, with more than a million students and citizens participating in anti-government protests all over the nation in June 1987 in the June Democracy Movement.[75][78][79]

On June 29, 1987, the government's presidential nominee Roh Tae-woo succumbed to the demands and announced the Declaration of Political Reforms which called for the holding of direct presidential elections and restoration of civil rights. In October 1987 a revised Constitution was approved by national referendum and direct elections for a new president were carried out in December, bringing the 5th Republic to a close.[78][80]

Sixth Republic

World Heritage site Bulguksa Temple in Gyeongju
World Heritage site Bulguksa Temple
Olympic Park - Seoul, South Korea text
Olympic Park - Seoul, South Korea
 Sea of supporters in Seoul during the 2002 FIFA World Cup text
Sea of supporters in Seoul during the 2002 FIFA World Cup
Bushes greet South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in 2008
President George W. Bush and Laura Bush welcome South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and his wife, Kim Yoon-ok to the Presidential retreat at Camp David, Maryland in 2008.

The Sixth Republic began in 1987 and remains the current republic of South Korea (2011).[81] It started with the election of Roh Tae-woo as president for the 13th presidential term in the first direct presidential election in 16 years. Although Roh was from a military background and one of the leaders of Chun's coup d'etat, the inability of the opposition leaders Kim Dae Jung and Kim Young Sam to agree on a unified candidacy led to his being elected.[82][83]

Roh was officially inaugurated in February 1988. The government set out to eliminate past vestiges of authoritarian rule, by revising laws and decrees to fit democratic provisions. Freedom of press was expanded, university autonomy recognised, and restrictions on overseas travels were lifted.[84] However, the growth of the economy had slowed down compared to the 80s, with strong labor unions and higher wages reducing the competitiveness of Korean products on the international market, resulting in stagnant exports, while commodity prices kept on rising.

Shortly after Roh's inauguration, the Seoul Olympics took place, raising South Korea's international recognition and also greatly influencing foreign policy. Roh's government announced the official unification plan, Nordpolitik, established diplomatic ties with the Soviet Union, China, and countries in East Europe.[82]

A historic event was held in 1990 when North Korea accepted the proposal for exchange between the two Koreas, resulting in high-level talks, cultural and sports exchange. In 1991, a joint communique on denuclearization agreed upon, and the two Koreas simultaneously became members of the UN .[82][85]

When Roh's tenure was over, Kim Young-sam was elected president in the 1992 elections. He was the country's first civilian president in 30 years and he promised to build a "New Korea".[86] The government set out to correct the mistakes of the previous administrations. Local government elections were held in 1995, and parliamentary elections in 1996. Adhering to popular demand, former presidents Chun and Roh were both indicted on charges linked to bribery, illegal funds, and in the case of Chun, responsibility for the incident in Gwangju. They were tried and sentenced to prison in December, 1996.[86][87]

Relations with the North improved and a summit meeting was planned, but was postponed indefinitely with the death of Kim Il Sung. Tensions varied between the two Koreas thereafter, with cycle of small military skirmishes and apologies. The government also carried out substantial financial and economical reforms, joined the OECD in 1996, but met crisis with political and financial scandals. The country also faced various catastrophes at the time; train collision and ship sinking in 1993, Seoul's Seongsu Bridge and Sampoong Department Store collapsing in 1994. These incidents, which claimed many lives, were a blow to the civilian government.[86]

In 1997, the nation suffered a severe financial crisis and the government had to approach the International Monetary Fund for relief funds. This was the limit to what the nation could bear and led to the opposition leader Kim Dae-jung winning the presidency in the same year.[86]

Kim Dae-jung was officially inaugurated in February, 1998. South Korea had maintained its commitment to democratize its political processes and this was the first transfer of the government between parties by peaceful means. Kim's government faced the daunting task of overcoming the economic crisis, but with the joint efforts of the government's aggressive pursuit of foreign investment, industry's cooperation and the citizen's gold-collecting campaign,[88] the country was able to come out of the crisis in a relatively short period of time.[89][90]

Industrial reconstruction of the big conglomerate chaebols were pursued, a national pension system was established in 1998, educational reforms were carried out, government support for the IT field was increased, and notable cultural properties were registered as UNESCO Cultural Heritage sites.[90] The 2002 FIFA World Cup, co-hosted with Japan, brought upon a new culture where millions of supporters gather to cheer in public places.[91]

In diplomacy, Kim Dae-jung pursued the "Sunshine Policy", a series of efforts to reconcile with North Korea.[92] This culminated in reunions of the separated families of the Korean War, and the summit talk with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. For these efforts, Kim Dae-jung was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2000.[93] However, as North Korea did not cooperate for a peaceful coexistence, and with the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001 changing the US's view on North Korea, the efficacy of the Sunshine Policy was brought into question. With the added allegations of corruption, support waned in the later years of the administration.[89][90][94]

Roh Moo-hyun was elected to the presidency in December 2002 by direct election. His victory came with much support from the younger generation and civic groups who had hopes of a participatory democracy, and Roh's administration consequently launched with the motto of "participation government". Unlike the previous governments, the administration decided to take a long-term view and execute market-based reforms at a gradual pace.[95] This approach did not please the public, however, and by the end of 2003, approval ratings were falling.[96]

The Roh administration succeeded in overcoming regionalism in South Korean politics, diluting the collusive ties between politics and business, empowering the civil society, settling the Korea-United States FTA issue, continuing summit talks with North Korea, and launching the high-speed train system, KTX. But despite a boom in the stock market, youth unemployment rates were high, real estate prices skyrocketed and the economy lagged.[97]

In March 2004, the National Assembly voted to impeach Roh on charges of breach of election laws and corruption. This motion rallied his supporters and affected the outcome of the parliamentary election held in April, with the ruling party becoming the majority. Roh was reinstated in May by the Constitutional Court, who had overturned the verdict. However, the ruling party then lost its majority in by-elections in 2005, as discontinued reform plans, continual labor unrest, Roh's personal feuds with the media, diplomatic friction with the United States and Japan, caused criticism of the government's incompetence of political, socioeconomical issues and foreign affairs.[96][98][99]

Roh Moo-hyun and his family members were investigated for bribery and corruption in April 2009. Roh denied the charges,[100] but subsequently committed suicide by jumping into a ravine on May 23, 2009.[98][101]

Roh's successor, Lee Myung-bak, was inaugurated in February, 2008. Stating "creative pragmatism" as a guiding principle, Lee's administration set out to revitalize the flagging economy, re-energize diplomatic ties, stabilize social welfare, and meet the challenges of globalization.[102][103] In April 2008, the ruling party secured a majority the National Assembly elections.[104] Also that month, summit talks with the United States helped ease the tension between the two countries caused by the previous administrations' policy towards North Korea, and the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement was discussed. Lee agreed to lift the ban on US beef imports, which caused massive protests and demonstrations in the months that followed, as paranoia of potential mad cow disease gripped the country. The demonstrations turned into a field of political conflict, and was appeased when the government released a statement regarding details of the beef imports.[105]

Many issues plagued the government in the beginning of the administration: controversies regarding appointment of high-ranking government officials, rampant political conflicts, accusations of oppression of media[106] and strained diplomatic relationships with North Korea and Japan. The economy turned for worse as the global recession hit the country; the worst economic crisis since 1997.[107] The Lee administration tackled these issues by actively issuing statements, timely reshuffling the cabinet, and implementing administrative and industrial reforms.[108]

After regulatory and economic reforms,[109] the economy has bounced back, with the country's economy marking growth and apparently recovering from the global recession.[110][111][112] The administration has also pursued to improve diplomatic relations with active summit talks: the United States; Korea-China-Japan Summits; and the ASEAN-ROK Commemorative Summit to strengthen ties with other Asian countries.[113] The 2010 G20 summit was held in Seoul, where issues regarding the global economic crisis were discussed.[114]

See also


  1. ^ Eun Mee Kim (1998). The Four Asian Tigers: Economic Development and the Global Political Economy. San Diego: Academic Press. ISBN 9780124074408, 0124074405. 
  2. ^ Will the four Asian tigers lead the way again in 2010, Times of Malta, 2010-02-01
  3. ^ a b Lee Hyun-hee (2005, pp 583-585)
  4. ^ a b The Academy of Korean Studies (2005, pp150-153)
  5. ^ Yalta Conference, Lillian Goldman Law Library
  6. ^ Lee (1984, p. 374); Cumings (1997, p. 189).
  7. ^ Nahm, Cumings, loc. cit.
  8. ^ a b Nahm (1996, p. 340).
  9. ^ Michael Edson Robinson (2007, pp 107-108)
  10. ^ Nahm (1996, p. 351); Lee (1984, p. 375).
  11. ^ Lee (1984, p. 375).
  12. ^ Moscow conference
  13. ^ a b c d The Academy of Korean Studies (2005, pp154-157; pp162-163)
  14. ^ a b c d Lee Hyun-hee (2005, pp 584-586)
  15. ^ a b South Korea under US Occupation 1945-1948, Country studies: South Korea
  16. ^ Resolution 195, UN Third General Assembly
  17. ^ The Syngman Rhee era, Country studies: South Korea
  18. ^ Yang (1999, pp. 194-195).
  19. ^ Yang (1999, p. 194).
  20. ^ Cumings (1997, p. 255, p. 306).
  21. ^ Cumings (1997, p. 221).
  22. ^ The Academy of Korean Studies (2005, pp166-171)
  23. ^ Yang (1999, p. 193)
  24. ^ a b The Academy of Korean Studies (2005, pp172-177)
  25. ^ (Korean) Procession of the 6.25 War and the UN at Doosan Encyclopedia
  26. ^ Lee Hyun-hee (2005, pp 586-590)
  27. ^ Korean Armistice Agreement
  28. ^ The Korean War, Country studies: South Korea
  29. ^ (Korean) Rhee Syngman at Doosan Encyclopedia
  30. ^ a b Lee Hyun-hee (2005, pp 588-590)
  31. ^ a b The Academy of Korean Studies (2005, pp 178-181)
  32. ^ Institute of Historical Studies (2004, pp 320-321)
  33. ^ (Korean) Jo Bongam at Doosan Encyclopedia
  34. ^ a b c d e f The Academy of Korean Studies (2005, pp 186-189)
  35. ^ (Korean) Cause of the 4.19 Revolution at Doosan Encyclopedia
  36. ^ a b c d e Lee Hyun-hee (2005, pp 591-592)
  37. ^ (Korean) 4.19 Revolution at Doosan Encyclopedia
  38. ^ Yonhap (2004, p. 270).
  39. ^ (Korean) Parliamentary cabinet system in the 2nd Republic at Naver dictionary
  40. ^ (Korean) The 2nd Republic
  41. ^ Democratic Interlude, South Korea: A Country Study
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  43. ^ Yang (1999, p. 196). Nahm (1996, p. 412) gives "2,000."
  44. ^ a b Nahm (1996, p. 411).
  45. ^ (Korean) Policies of the 2nd Republic at Doosan Encyclopedia
  46. ^ Nahm, loc. cit.
  47. ^ Nahm (1996, p. 412); Yonhap (2004, pp. 270-271)
  48. ^ Nahm (1996, p. 412)
  49. ^ a b c Lee Hyun-hee (2005, pp 593-595)
  50. ^ a b c d e f The Academy of Korean Studies (2005, pp192-193)
  51. ^ a b c (Korean) 5.16 coup d'etat at Doosan Encyclopedia
  52. ^ a b c Park Chung-Hee, South Korea: A Country Study
  53. ^ (Korean) KCIA at Doosan Encyclopedia
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  55. ^ a b c d e f g Lee Hyun-hee (2005, pp 595-599)
  56. ^ a b (Korean) Major policies of the 3rd Republic at Doosan Encyclopedia
  57. ^ a b Economic development, Country studies: South Korea
  58. ^ Cumings (1997, p. 320).
  59. ^ (Korean) 1965 Korea-Japan treaty at Doosan Encyclopedia
  60. ^ Kim Dangtaek (2002, p486)
  61. ^ US-ROK Status of Forces Agreement 1966-1967, United States Forces Korea
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  65. ^ a b c d e f Lee Hyun-hee (2005, pp 600-604)
  66. ^ The Academy of Korean Studies (2005, pp198-201)
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  73. ^ (Korean) May 18th Pro-Democracy Movement at Doosan Encyclopedia. Originally called Gwangju Uprising, the event has officially been named as the 5.18 Pro-Democracy Movement or Gwangju Pro-Democracy Movement since 1995.
  74. ^ a b The Academy of Korean Studies (2005, pp 206-208)
  75. ^ a b c d e (Korean) The 5th Republic
  76. ^ Foreign Policy
  77. ^ The demise of the Chun regime
  78. ^ a b Lee Hyun-hee (2005, pp 610-611)
  79. ^ (Korean) June Democracy Movement at Doosan Encyclopedia
  80. ^ Compromise and Reform: July-December 1987
  81. ^ (Korean) The 6th Republic
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  83. ^ The Academy of Korean Studies (2005, pp 210-213)
  84. ^ Robert E. Bedeski (1994, pp 27-28)
  85. ^ Adrian Buzo (2007, p205)
  86. ^ a b c d Lee Hyun-hee (2005, pp615-619)
  87. ^ (Korean) The administration of Kim Young Sam at Doosan Encyclopedia
  88. ^ Koreans give up their gold to help their country, BBC News, 1998-01-14. Retrieved 2010-07-07
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  90. ^ a b c Lee Hyun-hee (2005, pp 620-626)
  91. ^ (Korean) 2002 World Cup at Doosan Encyclopedia
  92. ^ Christoph Bluth (2007, pp 92-103)
  93. ^ Nobel Prize in Peace 2000, Nobel Prize Organization
  94. ^ Uk Heo,Terence Roehrig, Jungmin Seo (2007, p197)
  95. ^ Tom Ginsburg, Albert H. Y. Chen (2008, p104)
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  99. ^ US to roll out tepid welcome for President of South Korea, New York Times, 2006-09-14.
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  105. ^ South Korea beef protests, BBC News, 2008-06-25. Retrieved 2010-07-07.
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  • (Korean) 6.25 War at Doosan Encyclopedia

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