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Korea - The President

#Presidents
1-3Syngman Rhee15 Aug 194803 May 1960 LP
Ho Chong03 May 196015 Jun 1960 LP
Kwak Sang Hoon15 Jun 196026 Jun 1960 DP
Ho Chong26 Jun 196013 Aug 1960 LP
4Yun Po Sun13 Aug 196024 Mar 1962 DP
5-9Park Chung Hee24 Mar 196226 Oct 1979DRP
10Choi Kyu Hah26 Oct 197916 Aug 1980 DRP
Park Choong Hoon16 Aug 198001 Sep 1980 Military
11-12Chun Doo Hwan01 Sep 198025 Feb 1988 DJP
13Roh Tae Woo25 Feb 198825 Feb 1993 MDD
14Kim Young Sam25 Feb 199325 Feb 1998 MDD; SHD
15Kim Dae Jung25 Feb 199825 Feb 2003SJKH; MD
16Roh Moo Hyun25 Feb 200325 Feb 2008 Uri
Goh Kun12 Mar 200414 May 2004 Non-party
17Lee Myung Bak25 Feb 200825 Feb 2013 GNP / HD / Saenuri
18Park Geun-hye25 Feb 2013?? ??? 2017 GNP / HD / Saenuri
19Moon Jae-in10 May 201725 Feb 2022 DP / Minjoo Party
# presidency order relies on election terms

The presidential power in South Korea is stronger than that of any other countries, deserving to be called an “imperial” presidency. The executive branch has steadily expanded its authority over the years. It now overshadows the legislative function of the National Assembly which has little authority.

Koreans and foreigners alike may think that there are 18 former presidents including the disgraced lady president in modern Korea. However, there are only 11 including Park Geun-hye. Unlike the United States, Korea's presidency order relies on election terms. As a result, the first Syngman Rhee spanned three periods of the presidency and the third president Park Chung-hee five from the 5th to 9th, and the actual fifth president Chun Doo-hwan is the 11th and 12th "president." Except for those three former presidents with plural election terms, the other 8 have served only one term of presidency.

President - History

In May 1948, the country’s first democratic election was held in South Korea under the UN’s supervision to elect the 198 members of the National Assembly. In July of the same year, the Constitution was enacted and Rhee Syngman and Yi Si-yeong, two independence fighters deeply respected by Koreans, were elected as the country’s first President and Vice President. On June 25, 1950, North Korean troops armed with Soviet-made tanks and fighters invaded the South, thus triggering an all-out war.

President Rhee Syngman strengthened his authoritarian rule. In 1960, the ruling Liberal Party rigged the Presidential election. Young students took to the streets in protest. The situation deteriorated when many demonstrators were shot down by the police. President Rhee Syngman announced his step-down and took refuge in Hawaii. Shortly thereafter, the Constitution was amended, and the Cabinet system and the bicameral National Assembly were adopted. Under the new constitution, the regime led by Prime Minister Jang Myeon was launched, but the political situation became extremely fragile amid political struggles and continued street demonstrations by students.

In May 1961, a group of young army officers led by General Park Chung-hee seized power in a coup d’état. In the presidential election held in October 1963, after two years of military rule, Park Chung-hee, having retired from the military, was elected as President and inaugurated in December that same year.

When the government announced the Yusin (Revitalization Reform), which were designed to extend the term of the incumbent government after eighteen years of dictatorship, in October 1972, students and ordinary people engaged in the democratization movement. After the assassination of President Park in October 1979, a new group of army officers led by General Chun Doo-hwan (Singunbu) seized power through a coup d’état. Singunbu suppressed the voices calling for democratization, including the May 18 Democratization Movement, by force. Chun Doo-hwan was sworn in as the President and ruled with an authoritarian grip.

In June 1987, Roh Tae-woo, a presidential hopeful of the ruling party, made a special announcement to the effect that he would accept the people’s request for democratization and direct election of the President. In December 1987, he was elected to a five-year term as President. He was sworn in as President in February 1988. The Kim Young-sam government, which was inaugurated in 1993, strove to eliminate corruption by making it a rule for high-ranking public officials to register all their assets and by prohibiting the use of false names in all financial transactions.

Kim Dae-jung was inaugurated as President in 1998. His government succeeded in overcoming the foreign exchange crisis that had hit the country one year earlier, and strove to develop both democracy and the market economy. In its relations with the North, the government adopted the “sunshine policy.” In June 2000, the leaders of the two Koreas met at a summit held in Pyeongyang, North Korea, and made a joint statement.

The Roh Moo-hyun government, which was inaugurated in 2003, concentrated on three leading objectives, namely, the realization of democracy with the participation of the people, balanced social development, and the construction of Northeast Asia with the focus on peace and prosperity. The government also held the second summit between the leaders of the two Koreas in Pyeongyang in October 2007 and signed an FTA with the United States. The Lee Myung-bak administration, which was inaugurated in February 2008, announced five leading indicators in a bid for the establishment of a new development system with the focus on changes and practicality.

Park Geun-hye became the country’s first woman to be elected President in the election held in December 2012. President Moon Jae-in was voted in as the 19th president of the Republic of Korea in the election held on May 9, 2017.




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Page last modified: 14-01-2018 18:38:22 ZULU