On July 20, 1948, a presidential election was held in the National Assembly. Of the 198 registered lawmakers, 196 attended and voted, and Syngman Rhee was elected president with 180 votes. Lee Si-young was elected vice president.
On July 24th, the inauguration ceremony of the President of the Government was held at the Central Plaza in a drizzling rain. He declared, “I, Syngman Rhee, solemnly swear to the people that I will abide by the National Constitution, promote the welfare of the people, defend the country, and faithfully perform the duties of the President.” He took office from that afternoon.
The first thing to be done was to assemble the cabinet. Since there were few positions and many applicants, sculpture was bound to be difficult. After many twists and turns, President Lee formed a cabinet with Lee Beom-seok as Prime Minister. He, who has always tried to remain aloof from political factions, rejected the excessive demands of the Korean Democratic Party, which supported him, and formed a cabinet that had the characteristics of a national cabinet. This was clearly evident in the appointment of communist Cho Bong-am as the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry to lead agricultural land reform, which was considered an important and difficult task.
Finally, on the morning of August 15, 1948, a ceremony to declare the establishment of the Republic of Korea government was held at the Central Plaza. President Lee announced the meaning of the ceremony, saying, “This ceremony held today commemorates our liberation and at the same time marks the birth of a new generation of our people.” He defined “several conditions that could be considered foundational elements of a nation”: (1) a total belief in democracy, (2) protection of civil rights and individual freedoms, (3) an inclusive attitude based on freedom of thought, and (4) government. and loyalty to the law, (5) improvement in living standards, and (6) ROK-US cooperation and economic aid. He concluded his speech by saying, “We hereby declare that this government, standing for the first time in the Republic of Korea, will remain unchanged until the end and strive to show the world that it is a model government of democracy.”
This was followed by congratulatory speeches from foreign guests, including Commander MacArthur, who came from Tokyo. Commander Hodge announced, “The U.S. military government in Korea will be abolished at midnight tonight, and the Civil Affairs Office of the U.S. Military Command in Korea will be established.”
Anti-civilian laws were unrealistic and retaliatory.
For the people of the Republic of Korea, the ceremony to declare the establishment of the government of the Republic of Korea is the most meaningful ceremony, and President Lee’s meal is the most meaningful speech. That is why we attach deeper meaning to August 15, 1948 than any other day. Still, if we look at the situation at the time, we realize that the meaningful ceremony that day was also a declarative event.
The actual establishment of the Republic of Korea was not only difficult but also bound to take a long time. South Korean society was poor, unstable, and faced with serious problems. However, the administrative organization to solve such problems was weak and finances were poor. Because they had lived under a colonial system for a long time, the people had a low standard of living and knowledge. Therefore, there was a severe lack of human resources to run the country, and people with administrative experience were considered ‘pro-Japanese’, making human resources even poorer. People’s lives were impoverished under the wartime system that led from the Sino-Japanese War to the Pacific War, so it was difficult to collect taxes even though there was a lot of money to spend.
What was urgent right now was feeding and putting millions of compatriots from overseas and North Korea to sleep. Since North Korea cut off power, industry was paralyzed and jobs were reduced. Because there was no food stored, the price of rice rose quickly, and uncontrollable price rises threatened the economy.
Security was also extremely unstable. The South Korean Labor Party was still in motion and the April 3 Incident had not been calmed down. In this chaotic situation, the troops of the 14th Regiment stationed in Yeosu revolted under the leadership of communists. Subsequently, units stationed in Daegu, Gimcheon, and Naju revolted. This uprising, called the ‘Yeosu-Sunchon Rebellion,’ occurred when North Korea’s de facto ruler, Sitikov, instructed Kim Il-sung and Pak Heon-yong to “take control of the South Korean military.”
Naturally, it was urgent to drive out communists from the military. This clean-up operation, called ‘Sukgun (肅軍)’, was dangerous and incomplete. So, when the Korean War broke out, there were high-ranking officers loyal to North Korea in key positions in the army and navy. Fortunately, this incident spread awareness of the need for strong security measures, and the ‘National Security Act’ was enacted, providing a legal foundation to effectively respond to communists’ secret plans.
In these difficult times, the ‘Anti-National Act Punishment Act (Anti-Civil Act)’ was created under the leadership of left-wing ‘small faction’ members of the National Assembly. The purpose of the anti-civilian law was to punish those who worked for the interests of the Japanese Empire during the colonial period and greatly harmed the interests of the Korean people. Since the anti-civilian law was essentially a purification law, it had no choice but to violate the ‘principle of non-retroactivity of punishment’, a basic principle of the law. Naturally, the punishment had to be careful. This was especially true because Japan’s effective rule over Joseon lasted two generations. However, anti-civilian laws were unrealistically retaliatory in scope and punishment. In particular, as police officers were targeted for punishment and arrested indiscriminately, the police collectively protested, greatly shaking public security. In the end, the law, which was intended to purify and integrate society, actually deepened social division.
The international situation was also tense. In order for the Republic of Korea to be recognized at the United Nations General Assembly in Paris in September 1948 , the government sent a delegation and had special envoys tour major countries. However, many countries were influenced by the argument that a separate South Korean government would “divide Korea forever.” In such a situation, the inter-Korean negotiator group centered on Kim Gu and Kim Kyu-sik sent a letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, saying, “If any Korean is asked to speak freely, they will not call the government established on half of their homeland their unification government, and they will not believe that that government will bring about their happiness.” “I will not approve it,” he claimed.
On December 12, the last day of the General Assembly, a resolution co-sponsored by the United States, China, and Australia was submitted to the General Assembly. The key point was that the Republic of Korea was the only legitimate government on the Korean Peninsula. This resolution passed with 48 votes in favor, 6 against, and 1 abstention.
At that time, the government army was defeated by the communist army in China, and the sense of crisis heightened in South Korea. In this situation, Russia announced that it would withdraw its troops from the Korean Peninsula by January 1, 1949, and proposed that the United States also withdraw its troops. Kim Gu welcomed Russia’s decision and argued that the United States should follow suit. President Lee, now in a state of urgency, held a conference with domestic and foreign reporters and urged the United States to promise that “the United States will not withdraw its troops from South Korea until Korea builds a national defense force.”
President Lee tried hard to prevent the withdrawal of U.S. troops, but he could do nothing because it was a matter of basic U.S. policy. He tried to obtain proper weapons, but the United States was stingy with weapons that were of little use to him. The communists who led the government army to defeat in China still controlled the White House and the State Department. Finally, in June 1949, all approximately 70,000 US troops left Korea, leaving only
Despite these difficult conditions, the Syngman Rhee administration managed state affairs well while responding to difficult problems. Thanks to this, Korea quickly stabilized and took root. This point is clearly evident in land reform, which was considered essential for economic equality and agricultural development. The key to land reform was the amount of compensation to landlords who gave up farmland and the amount of repayment to farmers who were distributed farmland. After a long discussion, it was decided that the amount of compensation and repayment would be equal to 150% of the ‘production of the main product of the farmland in question’ and divided equally over five years. It was possible to achieve reform without the government’s financial burden. And by May 1950, 70-80% of the farmland subject to distribution was actually distributed.
The Communist Party’s victory in China increased the sense of crisis.
On May 30, 1950, the second National Assembly election was held freely and fairly. The biggest political risk for a new country is the dictatorship of its first leader. Therefore, holding free and fair elections again is the final test in the nation-building process.
In the second National Assembly election, the ruling People’s Party, which declared itself the ruling party, decreased from 71 to 24 seats, and the main opposition Democratic National Party decreased from 69 to 24 seats. On the other hand, independents won a whopping 126 seats, accounting for 60% of the total 210 seats. This distribution of seats spoke eloquently that the election was held freely and fairly. In this way, the Republic of Korea easily passed the difficult final test and became a solid liberal democracy. The task of founding the nation was finally completed.
The Korean War, which broke out less than a month after this election, confirmed that fact. Despite the shock of a complete defeat in the initial battle, the Republic of Korea did not collapse. And in the end, the North Korean army was defeated.
[Disposal of assets left behind by Japan]
Large corporations also sell to the private sector… Laying the foundation for economic development with a market economy orientation,
the US Military Government vested in itself all property owned by the Japanese government and Japanese people in South Korea. So this property came to be called vested property of the US Military Government (after the Republic of Korea came to power, vested property was often called Jeoksan).
These vested assets were diverse and extensive, including social infrastructure, public facilities, industrial facilities, and various intangible assets. Naturally, its value was enormous, exceeding 80% of레고토토 South Korea’s total assets at the time.
Among the devolving properties, industrial facilities became a problem. Other properties would be transferred to the government or public institutions, but industrial facilities had to be distributed to citizens in South Korea, which pursues a market economy. At the time, public opinion believed that large corporations should also be made into government enterprises. President Lee went against this public opinion and allowed large corporations to sell their products to citizens. This measure contributed decisively to the process of achieving economic development in our society toward a market economy.
In addition, the process of disposing of vested property was fair. The transfer of government property to the private sector is bound to involve corruption. Although many scandals arose, when examined by objective standards, the property distribution was surprisingly clean.
The situation that arose when the command economic system changed to a market economic system shows this point. In the process of distributing vast amounts of state property in Soviet Russia, oligarchs were created through massive corruption. Oligarchs emerged as early as the time of Mikhail Gorbachev, who attempted to transition to a market economy, and grew rapidly under the rule of Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin. Not only did they sell off national property at a low price, but they also smuggled the property overseas.
This corruption arose from collusion between businessmen and political leaders. Naturally, political leaders also amassed large fortunes. It is common for countries that receive foreign aid to leak aid funds abroad, and the widespread corruption among the leadership of Afghanistan and Iraq is well known. During the Syngman Rhee regime, there was no plunder of national wealth of this kind. President Lee’s legendary integrity prevented such corruption from emerging.
500 military advisors.