Elites and Political Power in South Korea

Elites and Political Power in South Korea

Byong-Man Ahn

In Elites and Political Power in South Korea, Byong-Man Ahn examines problems related to Korea’s political and ruling systems. He examines the Korean government in a global context and explores Korea’s cultural and political matrix. The author goes on to analyze political power, political parties and the elites in terms of their contribution to the ongoing cycle of dominance. An understanding of Korean government is developed, with particular attention paid to the unique pattern of its administrative system vis-à-vis those of other systems.

Chapter 8: The Rulers

Byong-Man Ahn

Subjects: asian studies, asian politics and policy, politics and public policy, asian politics


INTRODUCTION The recent political history of Korea has been inhospitable for Korea’s former rulers. With the exception of the two presidents whose terms were tragically cut short, all the rulers relished a sudden exultation of power only to fall just as quickly to the pit of disgrace during their terms or after they were dethroned. Former presidents Chun Doo Hwan and Rho Tae Woo were imprisoned in connection with bribery scandals. Kim Young Sam was functionally stymied in the last year of his term by his inability to deal with the economic downturn better known as the ‘IMF crisis’, thus inviting president-elect Kim Dae Jung to intervene in state affairs before he was sworn into office. Dating back further, Rhi Syng Man was deposed by the people who held election irregularities against him. Chang Myon, former premier, was forced to step down when the military junta seized power. Former president, Park Chung Hee, who enjoyed the longest term of presidency, tragically died at the hands of his protégé. What is common to all former rulers of Korea is that they ultimately experienced denigration of one form or another. But historical evaluations of their leadership will vary widely. Who were they? What were their leadership qualities and personal traits? How did they manage state affairs and what were their effects on the nation’s development? These questions are worthy of an analytical study, which is assumed to illuminate a way out of the vicious cycle of tragic terminations of the presidency...

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