History of South Korea

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History of South Korea
A Taegeuk
Prelude to Division 1919–48
Korean Provisional Government 1919–48
USAMGIK 1945–48
First Republic 1948–60
Korean War 1950–53
Rhee Syng-man Government 1948–60
April Revolution 1960
Heo Jeong Caretaker Government 1960
Second Republic 1960–61
Jang Myeon Cabinet 1960–61
May 16 coup 1961
Constitutional Vacuum 1961–63
Yoon Bo-seon government 1961–62
SCNR 1961–63
Third Republic 1963–72
Park Jeong-hui government 1963–72
October Restoration 1972
Fourth Republic 1972–81
Assassination of Park Jeong-hui 1979
December 12 coup 1979
May 17 coup 1980
Gwangju Uprising 1980
Fifth Republic 1981–88
Jeon Doo-hwan government 1981–87
June Struggle 1987
Sixth Republic 1988–present
Roh Tae-woo government 1988–93
Kim Young-sam government 1993–98
National Moratorium 1997–2001
Kim Dae-jung government 1998–2003
Roh Moo-hyun government 2003–2008
Lee Myung-bak government 2008–2013
Park Geun-hye government 2013–2017
Impeachment of Park 2017
Moon Jae-in government 2017–present
Flag of South Korea.svg South Korea portal

The history of South Korea formally begins with its establishment on August 15, 1948.

Korea was administratively partitioned in 1945, at the end of World War II. As Korea was under Japanese rule during World War II, Korea was officially a belligerent against the Allies by virtue of being Japanese territory. The unconditional surrender of Japan led to the division of Korea into two occupation zones (similar to the four zones in Germany), with the United States administering the southern half of the peninsula and the Soviet Union administering the area north of the 38th parallel. This division was meant to be temporary (as was in Germany) and was first intended to return a unified Korea back to its people after the United States, United Kingdom, Soviet Union, and Republic of China could arrange a single government for the peninsula.

The two parties were unable to agree on the implementation of Joint Trusteeship over Korea. This led in 1948 to the establishment of two separate governments – the Communist-aligned Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the West-aligned First Republic of Korea – each claiming to be the legitimate government of all of Korea. On June 25,1950 the Korean War broke out. After much destruction, the war ended on July 27,1953 with the 1948 status quo being restored, as neither the DPRK nor the First Republic had succeeded in conquering the other's portion of the divided Korea. The peninsula was divided by the Korean Demilitarized Zone and 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 Rhee Syngman 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.[1] 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.[2][3]

U.S. military administration 1945–1948

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

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.[4][5][6] U.S. forces landed at Incheon on September 8, 1945 and established a military government shortly thereafter.[7] Lt. General John R. Hodge, their commander, took charge of the government.[8] 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.[9] Likewise, Hodge refused to recognize the newly formed People's Republic of Korea and its People's Committees, and outlawed it on 12 December.[10] 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.[11] 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.[12] Thus many of their policies had unintended destabilizing effects. Waves of refugees from North Korea and returnees from abroad added to the turmoil.[13]

In December 1945 a conference convened in Moscow to discuss the future of Korea.[14] 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.[4][5]

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.[15][16][17]

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