27. South Korea (1948-present)

 

Conflict Phase (April 3, 1948-September 21, 1954):  A communist-led rebellion led by Kim Dalsam broke out against the South Korean Interim Government (SKIG) on Cheju-do (Jejudo) Island in southern Korea beginning on April 3, 1948.  After government policemen fired on demonstrators on Cheju-do (Jejudo) Island, twelve police stations were attacked by communist rebels on April 3, 1948, resulting in the deaths of some 50 government policemen.  Legislative elections elections were held in U.S.-administered territory in southern Korea on May 10, 1948, and independent candidates won 85 out of 200 seats in the National Assembly.  The National Alliance for the Rapid Realization of Korean Independence (NARRKI) led by Syngman Rhee won 55 seats and the Korea Democratic Party (KDP) won 29 seats in the National Assembly.  The legislative elections were boycotted by several left-wing political groups.  Some 30 United Nations (UN) observers monitored the legislative elections from May 7 to May 11, 2948.  Some 400 U.S. military officers and government officials monitored the legislative elections.  Some 600 individuals were killed in election-related violence between March and May 1948.

The National Assembly adopted a constitution on July 17, 1948, and elected Syngman Rhee as president on July 20, 1948.  John J. Muccio served as U.S. Special Representative to Korea from August 12, 1948 to March 21, 1949.  The Republic of Korea (RoK) was formally established in southern Korea on August 15, 1948.  The U.S. government established the Provisional Military Advisory Group (PMAG) on August 15, 1948.  PMAG consisted of 100 U.S. military advisers commanded by Brigadier General William Lynn Roberts to train the South Korean military.  Government troops suppressed a communist-led military rebellion in the towns of Yeosu and Suncheon in southern Korea from October 19 to November 3, 1948, resulting in the deaths of as many as 2,000 individuals.  The U.S. military, including military advisers and U.S. transport aircraft, assisted the South Korean government in suppressing the military rebellion.  President Syngman Rhee proclaimed martial law on November 17, 1948.  On December 12, 1948, the UN General Assembly established the seven-member United Nations Commission on Korea (UNCOK) to monitor the withdrawal of U.S. and USSR troops from Korea and to facilitate the unification of Korea.  The UNCOK consisted of a total of seven representatives and five alternatives from Australia, Republic of China, El Salvador, France, India, Philippines, and Syria/Turkey.  The UNCOK was assisted by 32 staff personnel from the UN Secretariat.  The U.S. government provided diplomatic assistance (diplomatic recognition) to the South Korean government on January 1, 1949, and the Chinese government provided diplomatic assistance (diplomatic recognition) to the South Korean government on January 3, 1949. The U.S. government provided economic assistance to the South Korean government beginning on January 5, 1949.  Kim Koo, leader of the Korean Independence Party (KIP), was assassinated in Seoul on June 26, 1949.  U.S. troops completed their withdrawal from South Korea on June 30, 1949, and the U.S. government established the Korean Military Advisory Group (KMAG) on July 1, 1949.  KMAG consisted of some 500 U.S. military advisers to assist in the training of the South Korean military.  Communist rebel leader Yi Tuk-ku was killed by government troops on August 17, 1949.  On October 21, 1949, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution mandating the UNCOK to "observe and report any development which might lead to or otherwise involve military conflict in Korea."  On March 25, 1950, the UNCOK made a request to the UN secretary-general for military observers.  Eight military observers from Australia, Canada, El Salvador, and the Philippines were deployed in South Korea as a part of the UNCOK beginning on May 29, 1950.  Legislative elections were held on May 30, 1950, and independent candidates won 126 out of 210 seats in the National Assembly.  The Democratic Nationalist Party (DNP) and the Korean Nationalist Party (KNP) each won 24 seats in the National Assembly.  The UNCOK sent 18 observers to monitor the legislative elections.  North Korean troops invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950, which was reported to the UN secretary-general by two UNCOK military observers from Australia.  Two Canadian military observers for the UNCOK arrived in South Korea on July 25, 1950.  On October 7, 1950, the UN General Assembly dissolved the UNCOK and established the seven-member United Nations Commission for the Unification and Rehabilitation of Korea (UNCURK) to monitor and report on the situation in South Korea.  The UNCURK, which included ten military observers previously assigned to UNCOK, had representatives from Australia, Chile, Netherlands, Pakistan, Philippines, Thailand, and Turkey.  John Myun Chang was appointed as prime minister on November 23, 1950.  The UNCURK disbanded its military observation mission on February 28, 1951.  President Rhee proclaimed martial law on May 24, 1952. President Syngman Rhee of the Liberal Party (LP) was re-elected by the National Assembly on June 23, 1952, and he was inaugurated as president on August 15, 1952. South Korea and North Korea signed an armistice in Panmunjon on July 26, 1953.  Legislative elections were held on May 20, 1954, and the Liberal Party (LP) won 114 out of 203 seats in the National Assembly.  The Democratic Nationalist Party (DNP) won 15 seats in the National Assembly.  The UNCURK sent observers to monitor the legislative elections.  Government troops ended their suppression of the communist-led rebellion in South Korea on September 21, 1954.  More than 30,000 individuals were killed, and more than 430,000 individuals were displaced during the conflict.

Post-Conflict Phase (September 22, 1954-August 23, 1960):  President Rhee was re-elected with 56 percent of the vote on May 15, 1956.  The UNCURK sent observers to monitor the presidential election.  Legislative elections were held on May 2, 1958, and the LP won 125 out of 233 seats in the National Assembly.  The Democratic Party (DP) headed by John Chang won 79 seats in the National Assembly.  The UNCURK sent observers to monitor the legislative elections.  President Rhee was re-elected with 92 percent of the vote on March 15, 1960.  The UNCURK sent observers to monitor the presidential election.  Opposition political parties claimed election fraud, and demonstrations occurred in Masan and other cities beginning on March 15, 1960.  Government police and demonstrators clashed in Masan on April 10, 1960, resulting in the deaths of two individuals. Government troops and police fired on demonstrators in Seoul and other cities on April 19-20, 1960, resulting in the deaths of 127 individuals. Government police and demonstrators clashed in Seoul on April 26, 1960, resulting in the deaths of six individuals. President Rhee resigned on April 27, 1960, and Huh Chung became provisional president. Some 175 individuals were killed in the political violence in April 1960. Amendments to the constitution were adopted by the House of Assembly on June 15, 1960, which provided for civil liberties for South Koreans.  Legislative elections were held on July 29, 1960, and the Democratic Party (DP) won 175 out of 233 seats in the National Assembly.  Independent candidates won 49 seats in the National Assembly.  The UNCURK sent 30 observers headed by Juan Arreglado of the Philippines to monitor the legislative elections, and reported that the "arrangements for and conduct of these elections were very satisfactory."  The U.S. government sent observers to monitor the legislative elections.  Yoon Bo Sun of the DP was elected president by the National Assembly on August 12, 1960.  John Myun Chang formed a government as prime minister on August 23, 1960.  Some 500 individuals were killed in political violence from May 1949 to August 1960.

Post-Crisis Phase (August 24, 1960-May 15, 1961): Local and regional elections were held on December 29, 1960.

Crisis Phase (May 16, 1961-December 13, 1972): Prime Minister John Myun Chang was deposed in a military coup on May 16, 1961, resulting in the deaths of six government policemen. The Military Revolutionary Committee (MRC) headed by Lt. General Chang Do Yung and Major General Park Chung Hee took control of the government and proclaimed martial law on May 17, 1961. The U.S. government imposed economic sanctions (suspension of economic assistance) against the military government from May 17 to June 2, 1961. The U.S. government provided diplomatic assistance (diplomatic recognition) to the military government on May 21, 1961. The MRC banned political parties on May 22, 1961. The MRC promulgated a new provisional constitution on June 6, 1961. The Supreme Council for National Reconstruction (SCNR) headed by Major General Park Chung Hee took control of the government on July 3, 1961. The SCNR announced a new constitution on November 3, 1962, and the constitution was approved by 81 percent of voters in a referendum held on December 17, 1962.  The UNCURK sent observers to monitor the referendum.  The Supreme Council lifted martial law on December 5, 1962.  The government lifted the ban on political parties on January 1, 1963.  Anti-government demonstrations occurred in Seoul on March 22-26, 1963, and Major General Park Chung Hee announced forthcoming presidential elections on April 6, 1963. General Park Chung Hee of the Democratic Republican Party (DRP) was elected president on October 15, 1963, and he was inaugurated as president on December 17, 1963.  Legislative elections were held on November 26, 1963, and the DRP won 110 out of 175 seats in the National Assembly.  The Civil Rights Party (CRP) won 41 seats in the National Assembly.  Prime Minister Choi Doo Sun resigned on May 9, 1964, and President Park Chung Hee appointed General Chung Il Kwon as prime minister on May 11, 1964.  On June 3, 1964, the government declared martial law in Seoul following student demonstrations.  The government lifted martial law in Seoul on July 28, 1964. Student demonstrations also occurred from April 13-17, 1965.  President Park Chung Hee invoked martial law from August 26 to September 25, 1965.  President Park Chung Hee was re-elected with 51 percent of the vote on May 3, 1967.  The UNCURK sent observers to monitor the presidential election.  Legislative elections were held on June 8, 1967, and the Democratic Republican Party (DRP) won 129 out of 175 seats in the National Assembly.  The New Democratic Party (NDP), which won 45 seats in the National Assembly, claimed election fraud.  The UNCURK sent observers to monitor the legislative elections.  Two individuals were killed in election-related violence.  Constitutional amendments were approved by 68 percent of the voters in a referendum held on October 17, 1969.  President Park Chung Hee was re-elected for a third term with 51 percent of the vote on April 27, 1971.   The UNCURK sent observers to monitor the presidential elections.  Legislative elections were held on May 25, 1971, and the DRP won 113 out of 204 seats in the National Assembly.  The NDP won 89 seats in the National Assembly.  The UNCURK sent observers to monitor the legislative elections.  President Park Chung Hee appointed Kim Chong Pil as prime minister on June 3, 1971.  President Park Chung Hee dissolved the National Assembly, and declared martial law on October 17, 1972.  Constitutional amendments were approved by 92 percent of the voters in a referendum held on November 21, 1972.  President Park Chung Hee lifted martial law on December 13, 1972.

Post-Crisis Phase (December 14, 1972-October 25, 1979):  Elections for the National Conference for Unification (NCFU) were held on December 15, 1972.  Legislative elections were held on February 27, 1973, and the Democratic Republican Party (DRP) won 73 out of 146 contested seats in the National Assembly. The New Democratic Party (NDP) won 52 seats in the National Assembly.  The UNCURK sent observers to monitor the legislative elections.  The UNCURK was formally dissolved by the UN General Assembly on February 16, 1974.  A constitutional referendum was held on February 12, 1975.  Elections for the 2,583-member National Conference for Unification (NCU) were held on May 18, 1978. Opposition political parties boycotted the legislative elections. President Park Chung Hee was re-elected for a six-year term by the NCFU on July 6, 1978.  Legislative elections were held on December 12, 1978, and the Democratic Republican Party (DRP) won 68 out of 154 contested seats in the National Assembly.  The New Democratic Party (NDP) won 61 seats in the National Assembly.  The World Council of Church (WCC) published a report on April 27, 1979, which criticized the human rights record of the government. The government imposed martial law in Pusan on October 17, 1979.

Crisis Phase (October 26, 1979-January 21, 1981): President Park Chung Hee and five guards were killed by the head of the South Korean intelligence agency on October 26, 1979. Prime Minister Choi Kyu Hah became provisional president and proclaimed martial law on October 27, 1979.  The U.S. government deployed two E-3 AWACS military aircraft (240 aircrew and support observers) and an aircraft carrier to South Korea on October 28-November 12, 1979. Choi Kyu Hah was elected president by the NCU on December 6, 1979, and he was inaugurated as president on December 21, 1979.  The military government extended martial law throughout the country and banned political parties on May 17, 1980.  A rebellion broke out against the military government in Kwangu on May 18, 1980. Prime Minister Shin Hyon Hwack resigned on May 20, 1980, and Park Choong Hoon formed a government as prime minister on May 21, 1980. The U.S. government appealed for peaceful negotiations on May 22, 1980.  Government troops suppressed the rebellion in Kwangu on May 27, 1980, resulting in the deaths of some 175 rebels, 22 government soldiers, and five government policemen.  The US mobilized naval ships in the area between May 28, 1980 and June 28, 1980.  President Choi Kyu Hah resigned on August 16, 1980, and Prime Minister Park Choong Hoon became provisional president.  General Chun Doo Hwan was elected president by the NCU on August 27, 1980.  Nam Duck Woo formed a government as prime minister on September 2, 1980. Constitutional amendments were approved by 92 percent of voters in a referendum held on October 22, 1980, and the constitutional amendments went into effect on October 27, 1980.  President Chun Doo Hwan lifted martial law on January 21, 1981.  Some 1,000 individuals were killed during the crisis.

Post-Crisis Phase (January 22, 1981-present):  Legislative elections were held on March 25, 1981, and the Democratic Justice Party (DJP) won 151 out of 276 seats in the National Assembly.  The Democratic Korea Party (DKP) won 81 seats in the National Assembly.  Prime Minister Nam Duck Woo resigned on January 3, 1982, and President Chun Doo Hwan appointed Yoo Chang Soon as prime minister on January 4, 1982.  Prime Minister Yoo Chang Soon resigned on June 24, 1982, and Kim Sang Hyup formed a government as prime minister on June 25, 1982.  Foreign Minister Lee Bum Suk and 16 other South Korean government officials were killed in a bombing in Rangoon, Burma on October 9, 1983.  Legislative elections were held on February 12, 1985, and the Democratic Justice Party (DJP) won 148 out of 276 seats in the National Assembly.  The New Korea Democratic Party (NKDP) won 67 seats in the National Assembly.  Constitutional amendments were approved by 94 percent of voters in a referendum held on October 28, 1987.  Roh Tae Woo of the DJP was elected president with some 36 percent of the vote on December 16, 1987.  The International Human Rights Law Group (IHRLG) sent observers to monitor the presidential election.  Legislative elections were held on April 26, 1988, and the DJP won 123 out of 299 seats in the National Assembly.  The Party for Peace and Democracy (PPD) headed by Kim Tae-Chung won 72 seats in the National Assembly.  The IHRLG sent observers to monitor the legislative elections.

On January 12, 2000, the National Assembly adopted legislation providing for the establishment of a truth commission to investigate the massacres on Jejudo Island following the start of the 1948 rebellion.

Lee Myung-bak of the Grand National Party (Hannara Party) was elected president with 49 percent of the vote on December 19, 2007.  Legislative elections were held on April 9, 2008, and the Grand National Party (Hannara Party) won 153 out of 299 seats in the National Assembly.  The United New Democratic Party (UNDP) won 81 seats in the National Assembly.  Legislative elections were held on April 11, 2012, and the New Frontier Party (Saenuri Party) won 152 out of 300 seats in the National Assembly.  The Democratic United Party (DUP) won 127 seats in the National Assembly.  Park Geun-hye of the New Frontier Party (Saenuri Party) was elected president with 52 percent of the vote on December 19, 2012.

[Sources: Banks and Muller, 1998, 507-513; Brogan, 1992, 211-218; Clodfelter, 1992, 1153-1154, 1156-1157; Facts on File, October 17-23, 1948, October 31-November 6, 1948, January 1-8, 1949, May 17-22, 1956, May 1-7, 1958, April 21-27, 1960, October 20-26, 1960, May 18-24, 1961, June 1-7, 1961, November 28-December 4, 1963, October 15-21, 1972, December 17-23, 1972, March 11-17, 1973, October 19, 1979, December 14, 1979, December 21, 1979; Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS), May 19, 1980, May 20, 1980, May 21, 1980, May 22, 1980, May 23, 1980, May 28, 1980, May 29, 1980, October 11, 1983, April 26, 1988, April 27, 1988; Jessup, 1998, 402-407; Keesing's Record of World Events, November 20-27, 1948, June 25-July 2, 1949, September 10-17, 1949, June 24-30, 1950, November 25-December 2, 1950, June 21-30, 1952, August 16-23, 1952, May 24-31, 1958, May 7-14, 1960, September 24-October 1, 1960, July 15-22, 1961, September 21-28, 1963, December 28, 1963-January 4, 1964, June 27-July 4, 1964, July 8-15, 1967, June 12-19, 1971, August 28-September 4, 1971, January 8-15, 1972, December 2-9, 1972, May 12, 1978, August 24, 1979, April 25, 1980, December 5, 1980, December 1983, January 1987, November 1987, March 1988; Langer, 1972, 1347-1351.]

 

Selected Bibliography

Choy, Bong-youn. 1971. Korea: A History. Rutland, Vermont and Tokyo, Japan: Charles E. Tuttle Company.

Cummings, Bruce. 1981. The Origins of the Korean War. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Hatada, Takashi. 1969. A History of Korea. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, Inc.

Kie-Chiang Oh, John. 1968. Korea: Democracy on Trial. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press.

Kie-Chiang Oh, John. 1969. Role of the United States in South Korea's Democratization. Pacific Affairs 42 (2):  164-177.

Kim, Hunjoon. 2009. "Seeking Truth after 50 Years: The National Committee for Investigation of the Truth about the Jeju April 3rd Events," The International Journal of Transitional Justice, vol. 3, pp. 406-423.

Lee, Ki-baik. 1984. A New History of Korea. Seoul, Korea: Ilchokak, Publishers.

Woo-keun, Han. 1970. The History of Korea. Honolulu, Hawaii: East-West Center Press.