The Greenwood Encyclopedia of International Relations - Vol. 2

By Cathal J. Nolan | Go to book overview

Suggested Readings:
Jian Chen, China’s Road to the Korean War (1994); Rosemary Foot, The Wrong War (1985); William Stueck, The Korean War (1995); A widely read, but dated and heavily ideologically weighted, work is Bruce Cumings, Origins of the Korean War (1981, 1990).
Korea, Republic of (South Korea). Proclaimed independent on August 15, 1948. The first president of the Republic of Korea (ROK) was Syngman Rhee. After the Korean Conflict the ROK slowly rebuilt under a U.S. security (and, to a lesser extent, economic) umbrella. It was not recognized by the Soviet bloc, it was handicapped by millions of refugees, and it suffered rampant corruption under Rhee’s regime. The army seized power in 1961; it ruled with a rough hand but also oversaw an economic revival based on an export-oriented approach to development, driven by pampered chaebol. A loyal ally to the United States and fearing communist aggression for reasons of its own, the ROK committed 48,000 troops to the Vietnam War. In the early 1970s South Korea emerged as an Asian Tiger. By 1980 domestic prosperity had produced a vibrant middle class that began to insist on representative institutions, a demand echoed by the Carter administration. The army gave way only slowly, and not without bloodshed: in the city of Kwangju hundreds of demonstrators died at the army’s hand in 1980. The crisis was exacerbated by a bitter personal rivalry between the main opposition figures (the “two Kims”), Kim Dae Jung and Kim Young Sam. Nonetheless, in 1987 free and fair elections were held. Korea then used the 1988 Seoul Olympics as a symbol of its acquisition of First World status. The collapse of the Soviet Union led to diplomatic relations with Russia and the other successor states. Korean relations with Japan

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