When you discover the roller-coaster ride of corruption, protests, shootings/assassinations, and military coups/dictatorships that have taken place in the Republic of (South) Korea [RoK], it makes Japan look honest in comparison and provides more evidence of why the West and America, in particular, wants China to become a similar multi-party democracy.
On August 14, 1948, Syngman Rhee became the first president of the RoK. In May 1952, Rhee pushed through constitutional amendments, which made the presidency a directly elected position. To do this, he declared martial law, arrested opposing members of parliament, demonstrators, and anti-government groups. In 1954, Rhee regained control of parliament by fraudulently pushing through an amendment that exempted him from the eight-year term limit.
Then in 1956, Rhee’s administration arrested members of the opposing party and executed the leader after accusing him of being a North Korean spy.
The U.S. Department of State says, “President Syngman Rhee was forced to resign in April 1960 following a student-led uprising.”
The Second Republic under the leadership of Chang Myon ended one year later when Major General Park Chung-hee led a military coup. Park declared martial law, dissolved the National Assembly and suspended the constitution, which resulted in mass protests and a return to democracy.
Park’s rule, which resulted in tremendous economic growth and development but increasingly restricted political freedoms, ended with his assassination in 1979, when a powerful group of military officers, led by Lieutenant General Chun Doo-hwan, declared martial law and took power.
Then on May 18, 1980, students at Chonnam National University protested, which led to the Gwangju Massacre with estimates of the civilian death toll ranging from a few dozen to 2,000. Later, a full investigation by the civilian government reported nearly 200 deaths and 850 injured.
It wouldn’t be until October 1987 that a revised Constitution would be approved by a national referendum leading to the direct elections of President Roh Tae-woo in the first direct presidential election in 16 years.
In 1997, the country suffered a severe economic crises leading to the next civilian president, Roh Moo-hyun being impeached in March 2004 on charges of a breach of election laws and corruption. While under investigation for bribery and corruption, he committed suicide.
Roh’s successor was Lee Myung-bak, who was inaugurated in February 2008 and is still in office.
The CIA says 15% of the RoK’s population lives below the poverty line, while poverty in the United States in 2009 was 14.3%.
In August 2011, CBS reported that 20 percent of American children lived in poverty.
In fact, Homelessness in America remains an issue of deep concern. The American dream is a distant one for about 2.3 million to 3.5 million Americans that do not have a place to call home and about 1.35 million of the homeless are children.
Continued on September 29, 2011 in A Snapshot of Democracy in Asia – Part 3 or return to Part 1
SIDE NOTE: The Gwangju Massacre (1980) in The Republic of (South) Korea—a strong ally of the United States—is the second massacre “I never heard of” while writing this Blog.
However, annually, the media and American politicians remind us of the so-called Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989, which I wrote of in The Tiananmen Square Hoax after learning from Wiki Leaks that a massacre never happened.
In addition, the protests in Beijing in 1989 were never a democracy movement, which was revealed by a BBC documentary. I wrote of this in What is the Truth about Tiananmen Square?
Then there was the first massacre “I never heard of” until I stumbled on it by accident while researching another post. I wrote of that massacre [by a strong ally of America] in the 2/28 Massacre in Taiwan.
Why is it that the world knows so much about the Tiananmen Square Incident while hardly anyone knows about the Gwangju Massacre and the one in Taiwan?
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.
To subscribe to “iLook China”, look for the “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar, click on it then follow directions.