Korea’s history has often been turbulent. It has especially been turbulent in the 20th century. In the past country, what was once an independent nation was cleft in twain. While the Germans state was split due to their guilt, perversely Korea was split because of its innocence.
On August 15, 1948, the Republic of Korea came into being. Rhee Syngman (李承晩) was elected as the nation’s first president. A few weeks later, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was inaugurated under the leadership of Kim Il-sung (金日成) in the North.
Rhee Syngman is not remembered with much affection. President Rhee lived for a long time in America, long enough in fact to earn a Ph.D. in history under the tutelage of Woodrow Wilson. Despite his long experience of living in democratic countries, the democratic spirit was somewhat foreign to the late President Rhee. When the National Assembly voted to end martial law in Busan, President Rhee had half of the national assemblymen arrested. At this time, the president was elected by the National Assembly. Seeing as the National Assembly wasn’t going to vote for him anyway, he threated to dissolve the assembly unless they amended to the consitution to allow for popular votes.
You can read more about why President Rhee is not remembered in Korea the same way George Washington is remembered in America by clicking here.