According to itypeusa, the birth certificate of South Korea – formally the Republic of Korea – dates back to 1948 following the Soviet and US occupations of the peninsula after the end of the Second World War. The division of Korea between North and South – at the height of the 38th parallel (1945) – was consolidated with the Korean War (1950-53): the situation, which was not unblocked during the Geneva conference (1954), became a among the many unresolved crises of the Cold War. South Korea, closely linked to the United States until 1960, in that year gave itself a new constitution that reduced presidential powers, a choice linked to previous abuses. During the ephemeral experience of the second republic, the government attempted to punish those involved in the previous administrative malpractice. The coup of 1961 turned the tide and installed a military junta that exercised its power during various governments (or ‘republics’). The return of democracy came with the sixth republic (1987), the current one, supported by independent political demonstrations and movements. A direct presidential election was then instituted and a new Constitution promulgated. The president is the head of state as well as commander of the armed forces. The election is by direct universal suffrage for a single five-year term. The prime minister is appointed by the president of the Republic and confirmed by the parliament, the National Assembly. The president also has the power to appoint ministers. The National Assembly, the legislative branch, has 300 members, elected for a four-year term: of these, 243 are elected in single-member majority constituencies, while 56 with the proportional system. The first president of the new democratic course was, however, the former general Roh Tae-woo, whose election signaled a certain continuity with the old regime, albeit in a less authoritarian climate, while the first head of state coming from civil society was Kim Young-sam, elected in 1993. One of the most prominent leaders in the country’s history was the Democrat Kim Dae-jung, who, in addition to having to deal with the economic crisis that violently hit the country in 1997, tried to manage the relationship with North Korea in a different way from previous administrations. One of his historic visits to Pyeongyang in 2000, during which he met the North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, Kim was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. This attitude to dialogue with the neighboring Pyeongyang regime also characterized the subsequent South Korean administration led by the progressive Roh Moo-hyun, who visited North Korea at the end of his mandate in 2007. The former’s approach was different. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, in office from 2008 to 2012, who espoused a more firm line towards North Korea.
The main Korean parties are the Saenuri (former Grand National Party) and the Democratic Party. The first, a merger of the New Korea Party with other minor conservative parties, led the country continuously from 1988 to 1998, when the liberal-democratic political forces with Kim Dae-jung prevailed. The latter are a fluid component in the South Korean panorama having often gathered in different formations linked above all to the Democratic Party and the Yeollin Uri Party. In the 2008 elections, the Conservative front managed to regain a majority of the seats and, in 2012, confirmed its supremacy with Park Geun-hye. The latter, the first female president of South Korea, is the daughter of former South Korean leader Park Chung-hee, welfare and on a policy attentive to social equality. The action of the Park government is also focusing on decisive reform action at all levels of power and on a careful and decisive policy of boosting the economy, with the aim of getting the country out of the low growth of the last years. Although the Sewol ferry accident caused a major government reshuffle, President Park’s mandate appears to be solid and influenced only by possible friction with North Korea and tensions with other regional players, China and Japan.
Freedom and rights
South Korean institutions, in general, have shown some attention to the issue of human rights. The maintenance of the controversial ‘national security law’, introduced in 1948, officially to oppose any action aimed at damaging internal security, has however hindered the practical exercise of freedom of expression and of the press in the country, as various organizations have denounced. human rights. Although law enforcement has grown looser, several hundred people are investigated annually for their actual or alleged ‘sympathy’ with North Korea. The vagueness in the application of this law has repeatedly granted the authorities extensive powers of arrest and detention of simple suspects.
The incidence of domestic violence is extremely high, as is sexual harassment. The status of women is subject to severe discrimination and the inequality of wages between men and women is the norm. The country’s strong ethnic homogeneity also makes integration of communities from abroad particularly difficult. Although the law severely punishes the trafficking of human beings, there are several episodes of kidnapping of women and minors, taken to South Korea and exploited for the sex market. The death penalty has not been abolished, but no executions have been carried out since December 1997. More than 50 people are still on death row. Proposals to abolish the death penalty have been made several times in parliament, but none of these have yet been accepted.