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It seems to have only a short range, so does not much bother President Donald Trump, who says what matters is stopping North Korea from developing missiles that can reach America. But the governments of South Korea and Japan are naturally alarmed. The missile can manoeuvre in flight, making it harder for anti-missile batteries to shoot it down. How have South Korea and Japan reacted to this alarming threat? On August 22nd, two days before the latest missile launch, South Korea said it would let an intelligence-sharing pact with Japan lapse.

A few days later it further antagonised Japan by conducting big military exercises in the sea between the two countries, around two rocky islands which Japan claims, but which South Korea controls. Japan and South Korea often fight about the past. Many South Koreans feel, quite rightly, that Japan has not sufficiently acknowledged, let alone properly atoned for, all the horrors of its colonial rule over the Korean peninsula.

Many Japanese feel, quite rightly, that South Korean governments often foster this resentment for domestic political purposes and are constantly changing their mind about what they want Japan to do. The result has been decades of bickering.

[Korean Culture Series] A brief history of Korea

The latest outbreak of this row is especially worrying because it is infecting areas that had previously been immune to it. In , 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 , 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-gyu , thus bringing the year rule of military regime to an end. Chun Doo-hwan declared martial law on May 17, , and protests escalated.

On May 18, , 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 , with a later full investigation by the civilian government finding nearly deaths and injured. He subsequently created the National Defense Emergency Policy Committee, and installed himself as a member.

In September , President Choi Kyu-hah 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 it 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 the president stayed and many military persons were appointed to highly ranked government positions, keeping the remnants of the Yushin era.

South Korea

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 the economy boom 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.

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This rapid economic growth, however, widened the gap between the rich and the poor, the urban and rural regions, and also exacerbated inter-regional conflicts. These dissensions, added to the hard-line measures taken against opposition to the government, fed intense rural and student movements, which had continued since the beginning of the republic. However, in 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 , families from both sides of the border made cross visits to Seoul and Pyongyang in an historic event. The government made many efforts for cultural development: the National Museum of Korea , Seoul Arts Center , and National Museum of Contemporary Art were all constructed during this time. The Asian Games were held successfully, and the bid for the Summer Olympics in Seoul was successful as well. Despite economic growth and success in diplomatic relations, the government that gained power by coup d'etat was essentially a military regime and the public's support and trust in it was low when the promises for democratic reform never materialized.

The Gwangju Massacre was never forgotten and in January , when a protesting Seoul National University student died under police interrogation, public fury was immense. In April , President Chun made a declaration that measures would be taken to protect the current constitution, instead of reforming it to allow for the direct election of the president. This announcement consolidated and strengthened the opposition; in June , more than a million students and citizens participated in the nationwide anti-government protests of the June Democracy Movement.

On June 29, , the government's presidential nominee Roh Tae-woo gave in to the demands and announced the June 29 Declaration , which called for the holding of direct presidential elections and restoration of civil rights.

A brief history of how North and South Korea got to where they are today.

In October a revised Constitution was approved by a national referendum and direct elections for a new president were held in December, bringing the 5th Republic to a close. The Sixth Republic was established in and remains the current republic of South Korea. Roh Tae-woo became president for the 13th presidential term in the first direct presidential election in 16 years.

Roh was officially inaugurated in February The government set out to eliminate past vestiges of authoritarian rule, by revising laws and decrees to fit democratic provisions. Freedom of the press was expanded, university autonomy recognised, and restrictions on overseas travels were lifted. 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 , and established diplomatic ties with the Soviet Union, China, and countries in East Europe.

A historic event was held in when North Korea accepted the proposal for exchange between the two Koreas, resulting in high-level talks, and cultural and sports exchanges. Kim Young-sam was elected president in the elections after Roh's tenure. He was the country's first civilian president in 30 years and promised to build a "New Korea". Local government elections were held in , and parliamentary elections in In a response 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, Relations with the North improved and a summit meeting was planned, but postponed indefinitely with the death of Kim Il-sung. Tensions varied between the two Koreas thereafter, with cycles of small military skirmishes and apologies.

SparkNotes: The Korean War (): Brief Overview

The government also carried out substantial financial and economical reforms, joining the OECD in , but encountered difficulties with political and financial scandals involving his son. The country also faced a variety of catastrophes which claimed many lives: a train collision and a ship sinking in , and the Seongsu Bridge and Sampoong Department Store collapses in and These incidents were a blow to the civilian government.

In , the nation suffered a severe financial crisis , and the government approached 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. In February , Kim Dae-jung was officially inaugurated. 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, cooperation from the industrial sector, and the citizen's gold-collecting campaign, the country was able to come out of the crisis in a relatively short period of time. Industrial reconstruction of the big conglomerate chaebols was pursued, a national pension system was established in , educational reforms were carried out, government support for the IT field was increased, and notable cultural properties were registered as UNESCO Cultural Heritage sites.

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With added allegations of corruption , support waned in the later years of the administration. Roh Moo-hyun was elected to the presidency in December 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".

History of South Korea

Unlike the previous governments, the administration decided to take a long-term view and execute market-based reforms at a gradual pace. 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. In March , 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 , as discontinued reform plans, continual labor unrest, Roh's personal feuds with the media, and diplomatic friction with the United States and Japan caused criticism of the government's competence on political and socioeconomic issues and on foreign affairs. In April , Roh Moo-hyun and his family members were investigated for bribery and corruption; Roh denied the charges. On 23 May , Roh committed suicide by jumping into a ravine. Roh's successor, Lee Myung-bak , was inaugurated in February 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.

Early Ambitions

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. Many issues plagued the government in the beginning of the administration: controversies regarding the appointment of high-ranking government officials, rampant political conflicts, accusations of oppression of media and strained diplomatic relationships with North Korea and Japan.