South Korea History

South Korea History


Already in the 3rd millennium BC. the area of ​​today’s North and South Korea was populated by Tungusic tribes, which belonged to the Mongolian peoples and presumably came from northeastern Asia. Legends tell of the Choson Empire, which is said to have existed as early as the 3rd millennium, but for which evidence only dates back to the 4th century BC. gives. In the 2nd century BC Much of what is now North and South Korea became part of the Chinese Empire. Only in the south of the Korean peninsula did a number of independent small states remain.

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When the power of the Han dynasty ruling in China declined at the beginning of the Christian era, three empires emerged in Korean territory: the Koguryo empire in the north, the Paekche empire in the middle of the peninsula and the Silla empire in the south. In the highly developed realms, Chinese characters were used, among other things, and Buddhism and Confucianism became the dominant religious movements over the next few centuries.

In the 7th century AD Under the domination of the Silla Empire, the three empires were united into one empire, which encompassed the entire Korean peninsula and which was under the sovereignty of China, but was practically independent. After disputes over the throne and peasant uprisings, the great empire fell again into the three individual empires around 900. Koguryo in the north was renamed Koryo in 918 and subjugated the other states. The new empire under the Wang dynasty was recognized as independent by China in 939. Buddhism became the state religion.

In 1231, the Koryo Empire and the entire Korean Peninsula were occupied by Mongols (who then continued their triumphal march to northern and southern China). From 1280, Koryo was part of the Chinese Empire, which was led by the Mongolian Yuan Dynasty. Buddhism was banned and replaced by Confucianism.

After the decline of the Yuan Dynasty (1368), the Ming Dynasty (until 1644) followed in China, which had a strong influence on Korea. In 1392, General Yi Sungye succeeded in overthrowing the last ruler of the Wang dynasty and founding the Yi dynasty himself as King Yi Taejo. The city of Hanyang (today: Seoul), founded in 1096, became the capital of the new Korean empire.

At the end of the 16th century, the Korean Empire, which had now roughly reached the size of what is now North and South Korea, successfully resisted an attempted Japanese invasion (1592-98). In 1627, Korea was subjugated by the Manchu people, who also ruled China from 1644 onwards as the Qing Dynasty (also: Manchu Dynasty). The ruling Yi dynasty in Korea became a tribute to the Manchu dynasty. To minimize the influence of foreign powers as far as possible, the Korean rulers then tried to completely isolate their own country from the outside world. Despite this demarcation, however, western influences came into the country in the form of missionaries who carried the Christian faith with them.

Japanese domination

According to AbbreviationFinder, Korea’s isolation ended with the “Kanghwado” treaty of 1876, in which Japan forced the country to open some ports for Japanese ships. The country had to conclude similar contracts with the USA (1882), Great Britain (1883) and the German Empire (1884). The royal family’s power in Korea declined and the country was shaken by internal crises. Japan won the first Sino-Japanese war (1894/95), which was about domination in Korea. The Korean Kingdom was officially independent, but in fact it was controlled by Japan. In order to escape the influence of emerging Japan, the Korean leadership established contact with Tsarist Russia, but after Russia was defeated in the Russo-Japanese War (1904/05), the country officially became a Japanese protectorate.

In 1910, Japan declared Korea to be a Japanese colony (General Government) under the name Chôsen. In the following years, the industrialization of the country was pushed forward in great steps, as was the modernization of agriculture and the development of mineral resources: Korea served Japan as a raw material supplier for valuable raw materials, but the Korean population did not benefit from the economic development. The Japanese occupiers suppressed the culture and traditions of the population up to the ban on the Korean language (1939).

Uprisings against the occupiers, such as in 1919, led to a temporary liberalization that was not permanent. An exile government (“Shanghai Group”) was formed in Shanghai from 1919 under the leadership of Syngman Rhee. From 1934, communist guerrilla groups led by Kim Il Sung (“Irkutsk group”) tried to control the north of the country.

Korean War

After the defeat of Japan in World War II, the Japanese occupation ended in 1945. According to the agreements of the victorious powers, Korea was initially divided along the 38th parallel, Soviet troops occupied the northern, US troops in the southern part of the country. The UN passed free elections for all of Korea to reunite, but the outbreak of the Cold War between the two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, prevented this. In August 1948, National Assembly elections were held in American-occupied South Korea, boycotted by the northern part of the country and by the communist groups. The newly elected President Syngman Rhee proclaimed the Republic of Korea on August 15, 1948. US troops left the country just a few weeks later.In September 1948, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was proclaimed in North Korea,

The Korean War broke out in June 1950 after North Korea attacked the southern part of the country to force reunification. With the help of UN troops led by the United States, South Korea succeeded in pushing the North Korean troops back behind the line of demarcation and in turn now penetrating North Korean territory. In October 1950, the UN troops conquered the northern capital Pyongyang. As a result, China, which had previously warned the UN about crossing the demarcation line, intervened in the conflict and dispatched troops. The first ceasefire negotiations started in June 1951, but it was not until July 1953 that an agreement was signed in which a four-kilometer-wide demilitarized zone along the 38th parallel was decided. Around 2.5 million people had lost their lives in the chaos of war.

Post war period

After the Korean War, South Korea secured military support from the United States in the event of a renewed attack through a defense agreement. The United States also provided financial assistance to rebuild the war-torn country. The South Korean President Syngman Rhee governed increasingly dictatorially and tried to suppress the opposition movements in the country. Student riots and demonstrations in April 1960 led Syngmann Rhee to resign from the presidency and go into exile. A parliamentary system was established and the Second Republic was proclaimed. But a year later, a military coup ended young democracy, the country’s constitution was lifted, and a Supreme Council for National Reconstruction took power in South Korea. In the Third Republic (from December 1963) another president took over political power (General Park Chung Hee), who also ruled almost dictatorially with the support of the United States. After Park Chung Hee’s murder in October 1979, his successor Choi Kyu Ha (and from 1980 Chun Doo Hwan) continued his style of government. Opposition movements were suppressed with gun violence.

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Democratic state

Only in 1988 did serious unrest in the country lead to free parliamentary elections and the direct election of the president. The disagreement between the opposition parties meant that they did not put up a candidate, so the leader of the ruling party, the DJP, Roh Tae-Woo, became the new president of South Korea. In the same year the XXI. Summer Olympic Games held.

In the early 1990s, both Korean states were admitted to the United Nations. At the same time, the heads of state of both parts of the country signed a non-aggression pact. In 1992, South Korea resumed diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China (until then, South Korea had recognized the Taiwanese government as the legitimate Chinese leadership).

In February 1993, the leader of the “Democratic Freedom Party” (DLP), Kim Young Sam, became South Korea’s first civilian head of state since 1960. He initiated economic reforms and announced his will to reunite with North Korea (all negotiations had failed until then)) and brought his predecessors Chun Doo Hwan and Roh Tae Woo to trial for corruption and treason.

In the second half of the 1990s, tensions between the two parts of Korea increased again to such an extent that South Korea (which had in the meantime supported the starving population of North Korea with food transports) feared an attack by North Korea. In 1997 the effects of the economic crisis in Asia also affected South Korea; the country had to seek help from the IMF (International Monetary Fund) on the verge of state bankruptcy. In return for the $ 55 billion in international aid granted, the South Korean leadership has been required to implement a number of measures to drastically reduce government spending and open up the financial sector.

In December 1997, an opposition politician won the majority of the votes in the presidential election: Kim Dae Jung of the National Congress for New Politics (NCNP), who had spent 15 years in exile, prison or under house arrest in February 1998 took office as the new President of South Korea. In June 2000, the head of South Korea visited the north of the country for the first time since the division of Korea. On the occasion of the state visit, Kim Dae Jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il assured their will to take a course of reconciliation. Koreans were able to visit their relatives in the other part of the country for the first time. In October 2000, Kim Dae Jung received the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to reunite Korea.Human rights lawyer Roh Moo Hyun emerged victorious in the 2002 presidential election. He continued Kim Dae Jung’s “sunshine policy” despite repeated provocations from North Korea (including missile tests). In 2007, the train connection between the two countries, which was restored after more than 50 years, was reopened.

After various domestic and foreign policy mistakes, President Roh’s popularity fell enormously. Although he resigned from the ruling Uri party he co-founded in February 2007, it lost its status as the strongest parliamentary group to the “Grand National Party” GNP after numerous resignations. In February 2008, Roh was replaced by Conservative Lee Myung Bak, also called “Bulldozer”. (The president must not be re-elected.) Lee announced a more restrictive stance on North Korea’s nuclear program (see also North Korea, History) and announced that it would boost economic growth. In June 2008, Prime Minister Han Seung-soo offered to resign after mass protests that blocked Seoul for more than a month, which was not accepted by President Lee.The protests came because the government had restarted beef imports from the United States.

Relations between North and South Korea deteriorated again in 2010. A South Korean corvette was sunk southwest of Baengnyeong Island in March 2010 by a torpedo that came from a North Korean submarine. North Korea rejected the blame; South Korea imposed a trade ban and a passage ban for ships from North Korea from May. The situation remained tense and in November 2010 the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong was shot at by North Korea.

Park Geun-hye was elected as the first female president of South Korea as a conservative party candidate (Saenuri party) in December 2012. North Korea continues to launch rockets and test nuclear weapons. North Korea responded to renewed sanctions by the UN with the termination of the 1991 non-aggression pact with South Korea and declared war in March 2013. However, the situation soon relaxed again. In February 2014, high-level contact between North and South Korea took place for the first time in three years.

South Korea President