the late 1930s until 1945, the Japanese colonial government pursued
a policy of assimilation whose primary goal was to force Koreans to
speak Japanese and to consider themselves Japanese subjects. In 1937,
the Japanese governor general ordered that all instruction in Korean
schools be in Japanese and that students not be allowed to speak Korean
either inside or outside of school. Those caught speaking Korea were
punished severely. In 1939, another decree forced Koreans to adopt Japanese
names. During the war, Korean-language newspapers and magazines were
shut down. Belief in the divinity of the Japanese emperor was encouraged,
and Shinto shrines were built throughout the country.
Japanese rule was harsh and internal Korean resistance virtually ceased
in the 1930s as the police and the military imposed strict surveillance
over all people suspected of subversive inclinations and meted out severe
punishments against transgressors. Most Koreans opted to pay lip service
to the colonial government; others actively collaborated with the Japanese.
The treatment of the collaborators became a sensitive and occasionally
violent issue during the years following liberation.
As the Second World War was winding down in Asia, the USSR declared
war against Japan and quickly moved to gain lands occupied by the Japanese
Army. This included Korea. With the Russians quickly occupying lands
in the northern half of Korea, the US landed occupation forces in the
south. To avoid a major confrontation, the US proposed the 38th parallel
as a dividing line between the north and south, a proposal quickly accepted
by the Soviet Union.
The US and the United Nations wanted to establish a nationwide vote
to democratically elect the leader of the newly liberated country, but
the Soviet Union refused to participate, nor would it let UN representatives
enter the Russian-occupied north to conduct the election. Therefore,
only the southern half of the peninsula voted for a president, with
Syngman Rhee becoming the first president of the Republic of Korea (ROK).
The north also formed its own government, declaring itself the Democratic
Peoples' Republic of Korea (DPRK), with Kim il-song as its leader.
War broke out on 25 June 1950 and, technically, still continues
today, however, a cease-fire was signed in 1953, which is still in force.
This war was very brutal and devastated the country, pitting family
members against each other and forcing families apart. Most of these
separated family members will never live to meet their loved ones living
on the other side of the demilitarized zone (DMZ). However, after the
summit meeting between ROK President Kim Tae-chung (Kim Dae Jung) and
DPRK Chairman Kim Chong-il (Kim Jong-il), some family members have been
reunited, although for only a few days and under very rigid conditions.
Kim Tae-chung (Kim Dae Jung), the long-time opposition leader and pro-democracy
leader was narrowly elected president in 1997. Kim Tae-chung's presidency
was notable because it was the first time that the opposition party
came to power in Korea. Kim led Korea out of the "IMF Era," the period
when Korea needed massive financial aid from the International Monetary
Fund, through major reforms of the banking and industrial sectors. Kim's
presidency is characterized by his "Sunshine Policy," a policy of embracing
From June 13th to 15th, 2000, the leaders of the two Koreas held their
first summit meeting in Pyongyang. The summit led to a joint statement
by the two leaders which supported, in general terms, the goal of eventual
reunification of the two Korean states, reunification of families divided
since the Korean War, and economic cooperation. A planned follow-up
visit to South Korea by North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il, however, has
been repeatedly delayed.
Sources and related links:
history: Japanese occupation
Korean history: post occupation
libraries on North and South Korea
Korea: Atlapaedia Online
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the past 20 years, the status of South Korean women in the fields of
law and politics has progressed to where the UN considers South Korea
a model country in women's development. For instance, the passage of
the Protection Law against Domestic Violence and the Law of Prohibition
and Relief from Gender Discrimination is expected to further improve
women's status and help protect women from discrimination. However,
there are still large gaps between these laws and reality; women's participation
in Korean politics remains that of an undeveloped country.
At the national level, there are only 16 women sitting in the 273-member
National Assembly representing a measly 5.9%. In local councils nationwide,
only 56 women were elected out of the 3,490 seats available. There is
one woman in the Cabinet, the Minister of Environment.
The low level of women's political participation in Korea is primarily
due to the traditional nature of the society, which continues to regard
politics as the man's realm. Accordingly, the male-dominated political
parties are not supportive of women candidates although parties are
making efforts to recruit more women, while the electoral system works
against women. Furthermore, legislation to help increase and facilitate
women's political participation has been insufficient in addressing
women's needs. Finally, according to the Korean Institute of Women in
Politics (KIWP), women themselves have been indifferent to politics
and naive in their political consciousness.
In North Korea, there is very little or no information available on
women's participation in politics.
Read this report
to know more about women's situation in Korea.
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socialist (North), republic (South)
Head of State:
North Korea. Under the amended constitution, the chairperson (Kim Jong-il)
of the National Defense Committee holds the highest position of the
state, accorded with the highest administrative authority. At the same
time, the chairperson (Kim Yong-nam) of the Standing Committee of the
Supreme People's Assembly is given the responsibility of representing
the state and receiving diplomatic credentials.
South Korea. President,
elected by universal adult suffrage for a single five-year term. The
incumbent is Kim Dae Jung who is elected in December 1997 and assumed
office in February 1998.
North Korea. Unicameral. It is called the Supreme People's Assembly
or Ch'oego Inmin Hoeui. It has 687 seats and the members are elected
by popular vote to serve five-year terms.
South Korea. Unicameral. The National Assembly or Kukhoe
has 273 seats (227 elected by direct, popular vote) and members serve
North Korea. The Assembly on the advice of the President elects the
Premier. The Premier is head of government. The Central People's Committee
appoints the other members of the Administrative Council.
South Korea. The President appoints the Prime Minister and the other
members of the State Council. The Prime Minister is head of government.
South Korea Political parties
Presidential: December 18, 1997
Legislative: April 13, 2000
North Korea Legislative: July 26, 1998
Number of seats in the National Assembly: 133
Head: Lee Hoi-Chang, President
Address: 17-7 Yoido-dong, youngdeungpo-ku, Seoul, Korea,150-874. Tel
Number of seats in the National Assembly: 115
Head: Kim Dae Jung, President
Address: Kisan Building, 15 Yeoeuido-dong, Yeongdeungpo-gu, Seoul
Tel (82-2) 784-7007
Fax (82-2) 784-8095
United Liberal Democrats
Number of seats in the National Assembly: 17
Head: Kim Jong-pil, President
Address: Insan Bldg., 103-4 Shinsoo-dong, Seoul 121-110, Korea
Tel (82-2) 701-3355
Fax (82-2) 707-1637
resources and other links to Korea