Elites and Political Power in South Korea
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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.
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Chapter 6: Shifts of Political Power

Byong-Man Ahn


INTRODUCTION Ethnic homogeneity, the exceptionally long dynastic continuity and a universal value system characterizes Korea. Koreans have lived within the relatively stable boundaries since Silla achieved the unification of the peninsula in 668 and no significant minority of foreign origin has ever lived within the territory. From its foundation in the first century, Silla had existed for a millennium, including 200 years of Unified Silla. Such a long dynastic continuity hardly finds parallel in any other part of the world. The Unified Silla was succeeded by the Koryo dynasty (936–1392) and the Chosun dynasty (1392–1910), each lasting for nearly five centuries. The year 1910 marks the humiliating annexation of Korea by Japan, thus opening the era of colonial rule. The conclusion of the Second World War in 1945 liberated Koreans from the colonial yoke. But Korea fell prey to the Cold War with its territory divided into two halves, south and north, against its own will.1 The post-liberation was replete with political and economic disturbances that gave rise to violent shifts of political power. Transfer of power entailed stress and tension, each regime having an anomalistic ending. This chapter examines the process through which political power has shifted, as manifested in a series of Republics, from the First through the Seventh. The First Republic (1948–60) was headed by Rhi Syng Man through a sea of political and economic troubles following the transient governance under the US occupation forces, through the Korean War and the post-war rehabilitation. Rhi’s...

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