U.S. military administration 1945–1948
Emperor Hirohito announced the surrender of the Empire of Japan to the Allied Powers on 15 August 1945. General Order No. 1 for the surrender of Japan (prepared by the Joint Chiefs of Staff of U.S. military forces and approved on 17 August 1945) prescribed separate surrender procedures for Japanese forces in Korea north and south of the 38th parallel. After Japan's surrender to the Allies (formalised on 2 September 1945), division at the 38th parallel marked the beginning of Soviet and U.S. occupation the North and South, respectively. This division was meant to be temporary, to be replaced by a trusteeship of the United States, United Kingdom, Soviet Union, and Republic of China which would prepare for Korean independence. The trusteeship had been discussed at the Yalta Conference in February 1945. U.S. forces landed at Incheon on September 8, 1945 and established a military government shortly thereafter. Lt. General John R. Hodge, their commander, took charge of the government. Faced with mounting popular discontent, in October 1945 Hodge established the Korean Advisory Council. The Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea, which had operated from China, sent a delegation with three interpreters to Hodge, but he refused to meet with them. Likewise, Hodge refused to recognize the newly formed People's Republic of Korea and its People's Committees, and outlawed it on 12 December. A year later, an interim legislature and interim government were established, headed by Kim Kyu-shik and Rhee Syngman respectively. Political and economic chaos - arising from a variety of causes - plagued the country in this period. The after-effects of the Japanese exploitation remained in the South, as in the North. 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. Thus many of their policies had unintended destabilizing effects. Waves of refugees from North Korea and returnees from abroad added to the turmoil.
In December 1945 a conference convened in Moscow to discuss the future of Korea. 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.
The resolution from the UN General Assembly called for a UN-supervised general election in Korea, but after the North rejected this proposition, a general election for a Constitutional Assembly took place 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 took place in July. Rhee Syngman, as head of the new assembly, assumed the presidency and proclaimed the Republic of Korea (South Korea) on August 15, 1948.