S. Korea's 2nd Republic
The 4th Presidential Inauguration
Extracted from The 1993-Handbook of Korea; KOIS

Democratic Revolution

In the aftermath of the war, (1950-1953), the country was beset with many problems--economic, social and political. The old patriot, Syngman Rhee, unable to see that he had outlived his usefullness, was at least partly responsible for the social and political unrest that followed the war.

Social disorder and hostility to the government complicated the already staggering problems created by the war. There were many thousands of war-widows, more than 100,000 orphans. and thousands of unemployed, whose ranks were swelled by farmers leaving their land to seek work in the cities. Exact statistics are not available, hut in 1961 it was estimated that there were about 279,000 unemployed, of whom 72,000 wae university graduates, and 51,000 discharged soldiers and laid-off workers. This provided a powderkeg of anger and resentment that waited only for a spark to set it off.

The spark was provided by President Rhee and the Liberal Party in the course of the elections of 1960. Realizing its own unpopularity, the ruling regime used every means, legal and illegal, to rig the elections in its favor. Demonstrations broke out almost at once, espe-cially among students. The first occurred in Taegu on February 28, 1960, protesting political interference in schools. On March 15, election day, there were student demonstrations against the election, and police fired into the crowds. In early April a riot followed the discovery at Masan of the body of a student who had been killed by police.

The most serious demonstrations were in Seoul. Responding to the Masan affair, practically all of the students in the capital poured into the streets. Again police fired on them as they neared the presidential residence and there was bloodshed. Martial law was imposed and troops dispersed the crowds.

Rhee had no choice but to step down. His desire for power had overcome his patriotism in the end. The students had led the people into the first successful democratic revolution in Korea’s history, showing that Korean democracy was alive and healthy.

On July 15, 1960, an amendment to the Constitution was adopted by the incumbent assembly providing for a cabinet system of government with a bicameral legislature. At the same time, the two houses of the newly elected assembly in a joint session elected Yun Po-sun President of the Second Republic, and he was Sworn in on August 15. President Yun nominated Dr. Chang Myon (John M. Chang) as prime minister, whose nomination was promptly confirmed by the House of Representatives. At this time the Liberal Party was replaced by the Democratic Party as the majority party, and it immediately split into the New Democrats and the (Old) Democrats. The Prime Minister belonged to the former while the President belonged to the latter. Neither was strong enough constitutionally or personally to fill the gap created by the sudden ouster of the 12-year-old autocratic rule of President Syngman Rhee.

The new Government was unable to cope with the situation in which it found itself. For one thing, most members of the new cabinet, while without question honest people, had little experience in government. The leaders, tasting the long-denied fruits of political power, began to wallow in its corrupting effect. The national economy had been brought to the brink of bankruptcy due to unfair tax collection practices coupled with waste and mismanagement of foreign aid and domestic resources under the Rhee Administration. Prime Minister Chang’s cabinet not only failed to muster the united support of the populace to cope with such problems, but helplessly stood by and watched daily demonstrations by students who thought they could sway national affairs by parading in the streets.

The North Korean Communists, having recovered from their disastrous adventure of 1950-1953, seized the opportunity of internal disorder in the South to subvert whatever effort the Chang Administration could put forth. Elements of doubtful allegiance began urging "peaceful unification” a familiar line of propaganda emanating from Radio P’yongyaug daily at that time.

On May 16, 1961 the capital city of Seoul was occupied in a lightning coup led by Maj. Gen. Park Chung-hee.

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