The History of Korea

The Growing Pains of the New Republic

  1. Korean

한글 다깨짐!

  1. English

Trials of Democracy and the Miracle on the Han River

In the years following the Korean War, the Rhee Syng-man administration focused on reconstructing war-devastated Korea and emphasized an anti-communism policy, while secretly pursuing plans for long term rule. Rhee’s ambition brought about irregularities and corruption in society as the constitution was unjustly amended and public servants were mobilized to set up illegal voting schemes. Furthermore, the administration vehemently oppressed its political opposition.

Outbreak of the April 19th Revolution

During the 4th Presidential Election held on March 15th, 1960, Rhee’s administration committed illegal voting practices on an unprecedented scale. Enraged students and citizens rose up in protest, while the police attempted to crush the protests by force.

The protests against illegal elections turned stronger and on April 19th, the protests climaxed forcing the government to declare a state of emergency and open fire on the demonstrators. Outraged, university professors as well as regular citizens and even members of the police force joined the demonstrations. President Yi resigned from the office and the Liberty Party fell.

AfterRhee’s government toppled following the April 19th Revolution, a new constititution was drafted to create a parliamentary government led by a premier. The bicameral parliamentary cabinet created by the new constitution was an attempt at democratic politics and to achieve economic development. Exacerbated, people from all walks of life throughout society complained, as the leadership failed to show enough effort in building a new nation.

Military Powers Seize the Government and Rubuild the Nation – The Third Republic of Korea

Amid a chaotic political atmosphere, a group of soldiers under the command of General Park Jung-hee carried out a coup d’ etat and established a military government in 1961 (Coup d’ etat of May 16). The military government ruled the country under a modified constitution that created a strong presidency. General Park was elected as the President during an election held under the newly drafted constitution.

The newly inaugurated government forcefully pushed anticommunism and modernization of Korea and actively implemented groth-oriented economic policies. To achieve its goal, the government implemented a series of five-year economic development initiatives. With foreign capital and technology, factories were built and under the slogan ‘export is survival’ all efforts were exerted on increasing exports. As a way of raising capital for construction, Park’s government made quick arrangements to a conclude normalization treaty with Japan and dispatched Korean troops to the Vietnam War (1965).

Following the successful implementation of the first two rounds of the Five-Year Economy Plans, Korea’ economy grew tremendously and Korea’s economic achievement was dubbed the ‘Miracle on the Han River.’ DuringMo the 3rd and 4th rounds of the implementation of the Five-Year Economy Development Plans which began in 1972, the focus was placed on developing the heavy chemical industry, and it proved to be very successful. Pohang Steel and construction of a nuclear power plant in Gori are both symbols of Korea’s successful heavy chemical industry.

Meanwhile, the Saemaul (New Village) Movement swept across rural farming villages as a way of modernizing and enhancing the lives of farmers. The Saemaul Movement increased the earnings of farming and fishing villages, as well as improving their living environments. Later, the Saemaul Movement developed into a spiritual movement for improving the living environments of both rural and urban areas and it served as an exemplary case for other foreign countries to follow.