South Korea Recent History

By | October 27, 2021

Domestic tensions

The presidential elections on December 19, 2007 were won by the candidate of the conservative Great National Party (GNP) Lee Myung Bak (Lee Myeong-bak) with 48.7% of the vote. As the former chief executive of the Hyundai group and former mayor of Seoul, Lee supported his election success, among other things. to the announcement of a new economic upswing. The fraud and corruption allegations brought against him by the opposition – a parliamentary committee of inquiry had only been set up a few days before the election – could not jeopardize his election victory (took office on February 25, 2008). In the parliamentary elections on April 9, 2008, the GNP won an absolute majority of seats with 153 seats.

The resumption of beef imports from the USA, which had been halted in October 2007 due to a suspected BSE infection, became the first test for the new government. After public protests, the imports were initially suspended on June 3, 2008. As a consequence, on June 20, 2008, President Lee replaced the entire senior staff of the President’s Office; he had not accepted the resignation of the government that had previously been offered. At the end of June 2008, beef imports were resumed despite renewed violent protests. To combat the effects of the international financial market crisis, the government launched a package of economic stimulus measures on October 19, 2008. In 2009, too, measures were taken to prevent v. a. to stimulate domestic demand.

In the parliamentary elections on April 11, 2012, the GNP, renamed the Freedom Party, won 152 of the 300 seats. In the presidential elections on December 19, 2012, her candidate Park Geun Hye (Park Geun-hye) prevailed against opposition candidate Moon Jae In (Moon Jae-in) with 52% of the vote. This was the first time that a woman became head of state of South Korea (took office on February 25, 2013).

According to usprivateschoolsfinder, more than 300 of the 476 people on board were killed in the accident on the »Sewol« ferry on April 16, 2014. The government was blamed by the public for poor crisis management. The captain of the »Sewol« was sentenced to life imprisonment in April 2015. In 2014, at the request of the government, the left United Progressive Party (UPP), inter alia. Banned by the Constitutional Court citing national security laws of 1948 for demanding the withdrawal of all US troops.

The increasingly authoritarian actions of the executive branch, slower economic growth and high youth unemployment caused the reputation of the president and her party to decline. On November 14th, 2015 there was a mass demonstration with riots in Seoul. Tens of thousands protested against economic policy. In the parliamentary elections on April 13, 2016, the ruling Saenuri party (name from 2012) suffered a heavy defeat. With 122 seats, she only came second behind the Korean Minjoo Party. The newly founded People’s Party (PP) moved into parliament with 38 members.

In autumn 2016, President Park was drawn into a corruption scandal that focused on her long-time confidante and advisor, Choi Soon Sil (Choi Soon-sil; * 1956). They were charged with having used their relationship with the president to put pressure on Korean companies to donate money to foundations owned by Choiwere controlled. The investigation also focused on her influence on the president’s political decisions and her handling of confidential government documents. The affair sparked the largest mass demonstrations in South Korea since democratization. However, a public apology by the President on October 30, 2016 and a cabinet reshuffle on November 2, 2016 did not end the demonstrations. On November 20, 2016, prosecutors brought charges against Choi and two other former advisers to the President; On February 13, 2018, Choi was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment, among other things. Parliament voted on December 9, 2016 with the necessary two-thirds majority for the impeachment of Park,which in the meantime had also lost the support of large parts of its party. On March 10, 2017, the Constitutional Court upheld the parliamentary decision. On April 6, 2018, she was sentenced to 24 years in prison, among other things, for bribery and abuse of power.

On May 9, 2017, the population elected Moon Jae In, the candidate of the left-wing liberal Minjoo party, as the new head of state ; He accounted for around 41% of the votes (took office on May 10, 2017). During the election campaign had campaigned for the unbundling of the relations between the large industrial conglomerates (chaebol) and politics as well as for the creation of jobs for the younger generation. With regard to North Korea, Moon spoke out in favor of a dialogue-oriented policy, which he promoted in 2018/19 parallel to the rapprochement between the USA and North Korea.

Inter-Korean Relations

Government contacts between North and South Korea only resumed in the early 1970s and early 1990s. In December 1991 the two states signed an agreement on reconciliation, non-aggression, exchange and cooperation (ratified in February 1992); In addition, an agreement on the freedom from nuclear weapons between the two countries came into force. A North Korean nuclear weapons program caused severe tensions with the USA and South Korea in 1993/94 (first nuclear crisis); Another battle of arms on the peninsula could only be averted with great difficulty. Also a number of military incidents and provocations (e.g. 1996 violation of the ceasefire agreement by North Korea and intrusion of a North Korean espionage submarine into South Korean territory, 1997 military border incident,

In June 2000 an inter-Korean summit took place, at which the heads of state of North and South Korea, Kim Jong Il and Kim Dae Jung , among others. Steps towards reconciliation and family reunification (meetings of members of the families separated by the Korean War organized for the first time in August 2000), continued South Korean economic aid and agreed the reunification of Korea as a long-term goal. However, the process of reaching an understanding turned out to be difficult even after that, especially because of North Korea’s controversial nuclear policy, the one from the Non- Proliferation Treaty at the beginning of 2003resigned. Six-party talks (South and North Korea, USA, China, Russia, Japan) did not produce a solution. In 2007, however, for the first time in 56 years, passenger trains crossed the border between the north and the south. At a second inter-Korean summit in the same year, the politically responsible expressed the will to find a peace solution. Missile and nuclear tests by North Korea prevented further rapprochement in the period that followed. There were also military incidents again and again.

After a break of more than two years, official talks between the two Korean states took place again for the first time in January 2018. It was agreed that the North would participate in the Winter Olympics in South Korea. In addition, there was an assurance that all inter-Korean questions would be resolved through dialogue and negotiations. On April 27, 2018, there was a meeting between the North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and the South Korean President Moon Jae In . They agreed to end the officially still applicable state of war and to implement nuclear disarmament.

South Korea Recent History