In November 1945, the United States Army Military Government in Korea (1945-48) began the task of organizing Korean military and police forces. In December a school for training military officers was established; the South Korean National Constabulary was organized in January 1946. The United States originally had planned to assist South Korea in developing only those police and military organizations necessary to maintain law and order during the period Korea was to be under the five-year Soviet-American trusteeship. By 1948, however, it was apparent that South Korea would need to expand the National Constabulary into a larger and more conventionally organized army to adequately defend itself from a possible invasion by North Korea. For this reason, the United States provided funds and training to expand the eight provincial units and one capital city unit of the National Constabulary from regiments to brigades (see South Korea under United States Occupation, 1945-48). [Source: Andrea Matles Savada and William Shaw, Library of Congress, 1990 *]

In November 1948, the Republic of Korea National Assembly passed the Armed Forces Organization Act. Under the provisions of this act, the National Constabulary was reorganized into an army comprising seven divisions. In June 1949, when the last United States Army units deployed in Korea as part of the post-World War II occupation forces withdrew, leaving behind a 500-person military advisory group, the leaders of the South Korean army controlled an organization that had been internally weakened by subversion and political factionalism and that lacked enough trained personnel and modern weapons to prepare adequately for war.*

North Korea's effort to win control of the south using guerrilla warfare forced South Korea's military leaders to concentrate on counterinsurgency operations. In the fall of 1949, North Korean guerrilla units attempted to gain control of remote areas and small towns in the mountainous areas of eastern and southern South Korea. It was estimated that as many as 5,000 guerrillas trained in North Korea were infiltrated into these areas by the winter of 1949. Two South Korean army divisions and one army brigade were quickly deployed to conduct sweep and destroy missions to eliminate the guerrillas. Counterinsurgency operations were initiated in South Cholla Province in October 1949. In some areas, South Korean villages were evacuated both to protect civilians and to assist counterinsurgency units in locating guerrilla bases. By April 1950, less than 500 North Korean guerrillas remained in South Korea. Although the counterinsurgency program succeeded in ending the threat posed by the guerrillas, it had a deleterious effect on the army, necessitating reorganization and retraining for conventional war preparedness.*

South Korean Armed Forces During the Korean War

When North Korea invaded South Korea in June 1950, the poor quality of the South Korean armed forces immediately became apparent. Although South Korea had 94,000 troops when North Korea began its all-out surprise attack, one week later only 20,000 troops could be accounted for. By early September 1950, the invading forces held all of South Korea except for the PusanTaegu corridor in the southeast. [Source: Andrea Matles Savada and William Shaw, Library of Congress, 1990 *]

The United Nations (UN) Security Council, upon the request of the United States, condemned North Korea's invasion of South Korea and asked members of the UN to assist South Korea. Fifteen nations besides the United States and South Korea eventually provided troops; all forces fought under the UN flag and under the unified command of General Douglas A. MacArthur, commander in chief of UN forces. These combined forces successfully broke North Korea's extended supply lines by landing at Inch'on in September 1950. The invading forces were pushed back to near the Chinese border. Only the massive intervention of the Chinese People's Volunteers (CPV) in October averted the defeat of the North Korean forces. United Nations and communist forces fought to a standstill.*

In July 1953, an armistice was signed that in 1990 remained the only agreement preventing the renewal of hostilities on the peninsula. The armistice fixed the boundaries of the 241- kilometer Demilitarized Zone as the border between North Korea and South Korea. It also established a Military Armistice Commission, comprising China, North Korea, the United States, and South Korea, to resolve armistice violations and prevent the resumption of hostilities. As of 1990, the Chinese representative still was posted to the Military Armistice Commission, attended its plenary sessions, participated in secretarial meetings, officers of the day meetings, language officers meetings, and observed Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission meetings, but deferred to North Korea's representative.*

Internal Security and Threats in South Korea

From the founding of the Republic of Korea, its leaders, while professing liberal democratic ideals, consistently held that the security threat posed by an aggressive, communist North Korea required some modification of Western democracy to fit Korean realities. Confronted with a heavily armed enemy determined to reunify the peninsula on its own terms — by force, if necessary — successive South Korean governments gave top priority to external and internal security, guaranteed by large and well-organized security services. The need for social order and discipline in the face of this threat remained central to the government's approach. Faced with a divided country, even "loyal" opposition often was suppressed as dangerously disruptive. On more than one occasion, political opposition was confused with communist subversion. The communist threat at times provided political justification for authoritarian regimes to maintain power and to suppress public criticism or demands for democracy. In both 1961 and 1980, the military cited these concerns to justify its interventions in South Korean politics. [Source: Andrea Matles Savada and William Shaw, Library of Congress, 1990 *]

The pre-Korean War period was marked by political turmoil and widespread demands for sweeping political, economic, and social change. As the communists entrenched themselves in the north and right-of-center politicians emerged in control in the south, the possibility for peaceful unification of the peninsula disappeared. In the autumn of 1946, a series of unorchestrated leftist-led labor strikes and rural peasant rebellions were suppressed by the fledgling Korean National Police after some 1,000 deaths and 30,000 arrests. [Source: Andrea Matles Savada and William Shaw, Library of Congress, 1990 *]

The communist South Korean Workers' Party led a partly indigenous guerrilla movement in the south after a major rebellion on Cheju Island in April 1948 that claimed tens of thousands of lives. South Korea's military and paramilitary forces were beset by mutinies and defections but eventually gained the upper hand. In reaction to the communist- based Yosu-Sunch'on rebellion of October 1948, a harsh national security law was passed in December 1949 that made communism a crime. However, the law was so comprehensive and vague that it could be used against any opposition group. Under the law, members of the South Korean Workers' Party were arrested and some 150,000 persons were barred from political activity. Guerrilla warfare continued until the end of 1949, coupled with skirmishing along the thirty-eighth parallel. North Korea's conventional attack followed when it became clear that the insurgents would not triumph easily.*

Military and Politics in South Korea in the 1950s

Recollection of this chaotic period and the invasion from North Korea colored subsequent South Korean government attitudes toward internal security. Domestic opposition, especially from the left, was suspect. President Syngman Rhee's call for national unity provided political justification for limiting the activities of the opposition during the 1950s. Although the regime did not suppress all opposition or independent sources of information, it suppressed some organized opposition and criticism. [Source: Andrea Matles Savada and William Shaw, Library of Congress, 1990 *]

In the late 1950s, as Rhee became more authoritarian, the government increasingly resorted to using the police force and to a lesser extent, the military security forces, for political purposes. The Ministry of Home Affairs, whose charter ranged from intelligence and investigative operations to supervision of local and provincial affairs, emerged as a powerful political force. The police, with a strong core of veterans from the Japanese colonial police (approximately 70 percent of the highest ranking officers, 40 percent of the inspectors, and 15 percent of the lieutenants), was both effective and feared. The police used strong-arm tactics to coerce support for the ruling party during elections and harassed the political opposition. The prerogative of the police to call in anyone for questioning was a powerful tool of intimidation. These circumstances inevitably led to police corruption, politicized law enforcement, and exploitation of the populace in the name of internal security. Rhee's political survival became more and more dependent on the police. When police control wavered at the time of the April 19 student revolution in April 1960, his regime fell.*

The short-lived Chang Myon government (July 1960 to May 1961) did not survive long enough to articulate an internal security policy but was committed to a more open political system. However, because of internal conflict within the ruling party and the obstructions of the conservative opposition, society was in a state of political and social turmoil.*

Military Control of South Korea Under Park Chung Hee

Following the May 16, 1961, military coup, the Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA) was formed on June 19. Directly under the control of the Supreme Council for National Reconstruction, the KCIA, with nearly unlimited power, emerged as the organization most feared during the Park Chung Hee era. Under Kim Chong-p'il's direction, the organization weeded out anti-Park elements and became the prime tool keeping the regime in power. [Source: Andrea Matles Savada and William Shaw, Library of Congress, 1990 *]

Under Park, the lack of advancement in civil liberties continued to be justified by referring to the threat from North Korea. The political influence of the Ministry of Home Affairs and the police declined in the face of the KCIA's power. The relationship between the police and general public, however, was not significantly altered. As Se-Jin Kim wrote in 1971: "The former still act with arbitrary arrogance; the latter respond with fear but not respect."

The government often used martial law or garrison decree in response to political unrest. From 1961 to 1979, martial law or a variant was evoked eight times. The October 15, 1971, garrison decree, for example, was triggered by student protests and resulted in the arrest of almost 2,000 students. A year later, on October 17, 1972, Park proclaimed martial law, disbanded the National Assembly, and placed many opposition leaders under arrest (see The 1980 Constitution; Human Rights). In November the yusin constitution (yusin means revitalization), which greatly increased presidential power, was ratified by referendum under martial law.*

The government grew even more authoritarian, governing by presidential emergency decrees in the immediate aftermath of the establishment of the yusin constitution; nine emergency decrees were declared between January 1974 and May 1975. The Park regime strengthened the originally draconian National Security Act of 1960 and added an even more prohibitive Anticommunism Law. Under those two laws and Emergency Measure Number Nine, any kind of antigovernment activity, including critical speeches and writings, was open to interpretation as a criminal act of "sympathizing with communism or communists" or "aiding antigovernment organizations." Political intimidation, arbitrary arrests, preventive detention, and brutal treatment of prisoners were not uncommon.*

Opposition to the government and its harsh measures increased as the economy worsened in 1979. Scattered labor unrest and the government's repressive reactions sparked widespread public dissent: mass resignation of the opposition membership in the National Assembly and student and labor riots in Pusan, Masan, and Ch'angwon. The government declared martial law in the cities. In this charged atmosphere, under circumstances that appeared related to dissatisfaction with Park's handling of the unrest, on October 26, 1979, KCIA chief Kim Chae-gyu killed Park and the chief of the Presidential Security Force, Ch'a Chi-ch'ol, and then was himself arrested. Emergency martial law was immediately declared to deal with the crisis, placing the head of the Defense Security Command, Major General Chun Doo Hwan, in a position of considerable military and political power.*

South Korea Responds to the North Korean Military Buildup

In the 1960s, Pyongyang began a sustained expansion of its armed forces that continued without interruption through the 1980s. Under presidents Syngman Rhee and Park Chung Hee, the South Korean military remained largely dependent on the United States to deter a second North Korean invasion and to provide much of the training and equipment needed by the armed forces. When the First Republic (1948-60) fell, South Korea's military institutions were stronger relatively than most of its other government agencies. Each service had a well-established school system and adequate supplies of weapons, ships, and aircraft from World War II and the Korean War. [Source: Andrea Matles Savada and William Shaw, Library of Congress, 1990 *]

Because of internal politics and Syngman Rhee's policy of controlling the promotion and assignment of all general rank officers, the military leadership was already at the edge of involvement in the nation's politics. Park Chung Hee and the other military leaders who participated in the May 1961 coup d'état that brought down the Second Republic (1960-61) were motivated largely by dissatisfaction with their corrupt and ineffective military and civilian superiors (see The Democratic Interlude). They believed that South Korea's survival as a nation depended on the reestablishment of social and economic stability. They viewed the strength of the armed forces and the reinstitution of the National Security Act of 1960 and other laws intended to reduce civil disturbances as necessary means to restore order and promote sound economic development. By 1963 when Park won election to the presidency of the Third Republic (1963-72) as a civilian, he already had placed other former military leaders, mostly members of the eighth class of the Officer Candidate School who had graduated in 1949, in key government positions.*

Two of Park's major objectives during the Third Republic were to improve defense cooperation with the United States and to modernize the armed forces (see South Korea Under Park Chung Hee, 1961-79). In pursuit of these goals, Park devoted onethird of all government spending to defense in 1965. As a sign of support for United States policies in Southeast Asia and in exchange for the substantial financial and material contributions for modernizing the army, Park deployed units of the South Korean army and marine corps to the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam).*

South Korean Military in the 1970s

In the early 1970s, the Park administration, with United States assistance through its Foreign Military Sales program, promoted the establishment of an indigenous defense industry. Park's military advisers were concerned that Kim Il Sung already had built a North Korean arms industry. The Nixon administration was calling for Washington's allies to assume more responsibility for their own defense. Nixon's national security advisors also feared that Seoul might be too weak to deter a North Korean invasion unless it began to manufacture some of its own weapons. [Source: Andrea Matles Savada and William Shaw, Library of Congress, 1990 *]

A Defense Industry Bureau was established in the Ministry of National Defense and planning, for a defense industry was incorporated into South Korea's first Force Improvement Plan (1971-76). Some of the weapons were assembled in government-owned plants. Licensed production of the United States-designed Colt M16 rifle was initiated in 1971, with select South Korean companies supplying the government assembly plant with most of the parts for the weapon. In other cases, coproduction responsibility was entirely delegated to civilian-managed companies, many of which already had produced nonmilitary items with technical assistance from various United States firms. The Tacoma Boatbuilding Company, for example, assisted a South Korean shipbuilding company based in Chinhae in constructing several classes of patrol boats, including the Paegu-class derived from the Asheville-class, which was equipped with Harpoon antiship missiles.*

Park's assassination in 1979 did not obscure his regime's contributions to improving the armed forces during the eighteen years he was in power. He reorganized the Ministry of National Defense and each of the armed services to enhance the government's capability to manage any military contingency, including an all-out attack by North Korea across the DMZ, smallscale infiltrations along South Korea's extensive 8,640-kilometer coastline, and various types of low-intensity conflict, such as commando raids that targeted industrial, power, and communications facilities, or attempts by terrorists to assassinate key government officials.*

South Korea Military in the 1980s

President Chun Doo Hwan perpetuated the military's dominance over politics from December 1979 until Roh's inauguration in February 1988 and protected Park's legacy of simultaneously improving the country's economic and military capabilities. Chun continued Park's policy of devoting one-third of all government spending to the military, outstripping estimated North Korean military expenditures during most of the 1980s. Chun also continued Park's policy of promoting defense-related research and development and commercial agreements with the United States, Japan, and Western Europe — a policy that provided Seoul with access to more advanced defense technologies. Particular emphasis was placed on expanding the air force and establishing a modern air defense network. [Source: Andrea Matles Savada and William Shaw, Library of Congress, 1990 *]

Korean Air, then South Korea's only civil airline, began coproduction of Northrop F5-E/F fighter aircraft in 1982. At the end of Chun's term in office, Seoul was considering coproducing either the General Dynamics F-16 or the McDonnell Douglas FA-18. During Chun's administration, South Korean shipbuilders increased production of various types of frigates, missile-equipped fast attack craft, and other, smaller naval vessels. Civilian industries also became more involved in coproduction of defense ordnance, including armored personnel carriers, self-propelled artillery, tanks, and communications equipment.*

During South Korea's Fifth Republic (1981-87), the modernization of the armed forces was one of the highest priorities of Chun Doo Hwan's administration. As a result, when Chun's term in office ended, he left behind one of the bestequipped military forces in Asia. Army units had been reorganized and equipped with indigenously produced weapons. The improvement of defense fortifications and supply systems along the southern side of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) ensured that ground forces were better prepared to defend South Korea than at any time since the end of the Korean War (1950-53). An automated air defense system, jointly managed by the army and air force, reduced the possibility that South Korea would be caught unprepared in the event of a surprise attack. As a by-product of rapid industrialization and coproduction agreements with United States and West European firms, South Korean aircraft producers and shipbuilders were able to supply most of the country's needs for modern fighter aircraft, helicopters, coastal patrol vessels, and other equipment required by the air force and navy.*

Pressure from North Korea in the 1980s

A tenuous peace held throughout the 1980s on the Korean Peninsula — tenuous because the government of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) in Pyongyang continued to expand its armed forces and to deploy two-thirds of all military units — army, navy, and air force — in a combat-ready status close to the DMZ. Moreover, North Korean-directed terrorist activity against South Korea threatened to provoke a renewal of hostilities. [Source: Andrea Matles Savada and William Shaw, Library of Congress, 1990 *]

In 1980 Pyongyang and Seoul each had about 600,000 military personnel on active duty. From 1980 to 1985 the North Korean armed forces increased by 150,000 people, whereas the South Korean armed forces expanded modestly by about 5,000 people. In 1990 North Korea's armed forces had 1.4 million military personnel on active duty. South Korea's armed forces had 650,000 persons on active duty and another 1,240,000 persons in the reserves. *

Under Chun's leadership, Seoul cautiously promoted a peaceful dialogue with North Korea and encouraged the expansion of northsouth contacts in the early 1980s; Pyongyang remained uninterested in these overtures and on at least two occasions perpetrated terrorist attacks that increased tension on the Korean Peninsula. The primary purpose of South Korean peace proposals in 1981 and 1982 was to realize a summit meeting between Chun and North Korean president Kim Il Sung. South Korean leaders hoped that the establishment of a government-to- government dialogue would lead to agreements reducing the size of the armed forces of both countries and establishing the framework for a peace plan to replace the 1953 armistice.*

Terrorist Attacks by North Korea in the 1980s

In October 1983, a Pyongyang-directed terrorist attack resulted in the cessation of the peace process. A bomb that exploded in Rangoon, Burma, killed twenty-one people, including seventeen high-ranking officials of the South Korean government then visiting Burma. The bombing was planned and executed by personnel drawn from North Korean army units. Chun's decision not to retaliate with force set a precedent that won him praise from abroad and sympathy for his unpopular regime at home. Seoul's reliance on diplomatic and economic measures to counter terrorism rather than a small-scale attack on a North Korean target, which could be used as an excuse for beginning an all-out war, effectively mobilized international public opinion to limit trade and other contacts with North Korea. [Source: Andrea Matles Savada and William Shaw, Library of Congress, 1990 *]

Another terrorist attack occurred in September 1987 when two North Korean saboteurs placed a bomb on a Seoul-bound Korean Air Boeing 707 aircraft carrying ninety-five passengers and twenty crew members. The plane exploded over the Andaman Sea (south of Burma), killing all aboard. Chun, following the precedent set in 1983 after the Rangoon bombing, ruled out military retaliation and asked the international community to condemn North Korea for its continued belligerence.*

A female North Korean agent, Kim Hyun Hee, and her male companion slipped a bomb planted in a radio on the plane. The two agents got on the plane in Baghdad and got off in Abu Dhabi. They boarded a another plane for Bahrain, where they caught by security personnel after the bomb exploded. After being caught the two North Korean tried to commit suicide by taking poison pills (with highly lethal cyanide gas) hidden in a pack of cigarettes. Kim survived but her companion didn’t. Kim later tried to bite off her tongue so she couldn't talk. Later, she said that her handlers told her that the attack was ordered by Kim Jong Il.

Kwanggju Uprising and South Korean Military and Domestic Issues in the 1980s

South Korea also experienced an increase in politically motivated domestic violence during the 1980s. For the first time, a small, vocal segment of the population persistently challenged former and current military leaders, including Chun, to stay out of politics. The 1980 Kwangju rebellion was used by disenfranchised politicians and disillusioned radical students as a rallying cry. Moderates were encouraged to pressure Chun to change the constitution and public security laws to guarantee that soldiers, police, and the intelligence services would never again be turned against the people. Seoul's claims that the radical student organizations were fronts for North Korea gradually lost credibility, particularly in 1985, when student participation in the political process contributed to the high proportion of votes cast for the New Korea Democratic Party in that year's parliamentary elections. Public indignation concerning increasingly brutal attacks on dissidents by police became a major political issue in January 1987 when Pak Chongch 'ol, a Seoul National University student, was tortured and subsequently died while in police custody. From March through June 1987, combat police units of the Korean National Police responsible for crowd control were constantly on the move as antigovernment demonstrations, sometimes including tens of thousands of ordinary citizens, became everyday occurrences in Seoul, Pusan, Kwangju, and other cities.*

Popular demand for the restoration of civil liberties after Park's death was immediate and widespread. Acting President Ch'oe Kyu-ha revoked Emergency Measure Number Nine, which had forbidden criticism of the government and the yusin constitution. Civil rights were restored to almost 700 people convicted under the emergency decrees. The illegitimacy of the yusin constitution was acknowledged, and the process of constitutional revision begun. [Source: Andrea Matles Savada and William Shaw, Library of Congress, 1990 *]

The slow pace of reform led to growing popular unrest. In early May 1980, student demonstrators protested a variety of political and social issues, including the government's failure to lift emergency martial law imposed following Park's assassination. The student protests spilled into the streets, reaching their peak during May 13 to 16, at which time the student leaders obtained a promise that the government would attempt to speed up reform. The military's response, however, was political intervention led by Lieutenant General Chun Doo Hwan, then KCIA chief and army chief of staff. Chun, who had forced the resignation of Ch'oe's cabinet, banned political activities, assemblies, and rallies, and arrested many ruling and opposition politicians.*

In Kwangju, demonstrations to protest the extension of martial law and the arrest of Kim Dae Jung turned into rebellion as demonstrators reacted to the brutal tactics of the Special Forces sent to the city. The government did not regain control of the city for nine days, after some 200 deaths.*

General Chun Doo Hwan, as chairman of the standing committee of the Special Committee for National Security Measures (SCNSM), assumed de facto leadership of the country. The pronouncement of martial law announced as a result of Park's assassination remained in effect until January 24, 1981. Under the Special Committee for National Security Measures and the Legislative Council for National Security that replaced it, sweeping political controls were instituted. Established political parties were disbanded and over 800 people banned from politics; the media were restructured, many journals were abolished, and hundreds of journalists were purged; some 8,000 employees were purged from government or government-controlled companies and some 37,000 people were arrested and "re-educated" in military training camps under the Social Purification Campaign; and military court jurisdiction was extended to such civilian offenses as corruption and participation in antigovernment demonstrations. The new National Assembly Law and the amended National Security Act (which was rewritten to incorporate elements of the 1961 Anticommunist Law) also were passed. On January 10, 1981, the Martial Law Command allowed people to resume limited political activities in preparation for the presidential election.*

South Korean Military And Pro-Democracy Demonstrations in the 1980s

The Fifth Republic's constitution marked significant progress from the yusin constitution. As implemented by the newly elected Chun government, however, it fell far short of popular expectations of democraticization that had been raised after Park's death. The constitution was attacked by students and dissidents as Park's yusin system under new trappings. The government attempted to defuse discontent by "decompression" as well as repression, gradually returning civil rights to those banned in 1980. Additionally, the government opened up the political system slightly in 1983 and to a greater degree in 1985, although the dissident movement continued.*

Discontent was kept under control until 1987 by the regime's extensive security services — particularly the Agency for National Security Planning (ANSP, the renamed KCIA), the Defense Security Command (DSC), and the Combat Police of the Korean National Police (KNP). Both the civilian ANSP and the military DSC not only collected domestic intelligence but also continued "intelligence politics." [Source: Andrea Matles Savada and William Shaw, Library of Congress, 1990 *]

The Act Concerning Assembly and Demonstration was used to limit the expression of political opposition by prohibiting assemblies likely to "undermine" public order. Advanced police notification of all demonstrations was required. Violation carried a maximum sentence of seven years' imprisonment or a fine. Most peaceful nonpolitical assemblies took place without government interference. However, the act was the most frequently used tool to control political activity in the Fifth Republic, and the Chun regime was responsible for over 84 percent of the 6,701 investigations pursued under the act.*

The security presence in city centers, near university campuses, government and party offices, and media centers was heavy. Citizens, particularly students and young people, were subject to being stopped, questioned, and searched without due process. The typical response to demonstrations was disruption by large numbers of Combat Police, short-term mass detention of demonstrators, and selective prosecution of the organizers. Arrest warrants — required by law — were not always produced at the time of arrest in political cases.*

The National Security Act increasingly was used after 1985 to suppress domestic dissent. Intended to restrict "antistate activities endangering the safety of the state and the lives and freedom of the citizenry," the act also was used to control and punish nonviolent domestic dissent. Its broad definition of offenses allowed enforcement over the widest range, wider than that of any other politically relevant law in South Korea. Along with other politically relevant laws such as the Social Safety Act and the Act Concerning Crimes Against the State, it weakened or removed procedural protection available to defendants in nonpolitical cases.*

Questioning by the security services often involved not only psychological or physical abuse, but outright torture. The 1987 torture and death of Pak Chong-ch'ol, a student at Seoul National University being questioned as to the whereabouts of a classmate, played a decisive role in galvanizing public opposition to the government's repressive tactics.*

The security services not only detained those accused of violating laws governing political dissent, but also put under various lesser forms of detention — including house arrest — those people, including opposition politicians, who they thought intended to violate the laws. Many political, religious, and other dissidents were subjected to surveillance by government agents. Opposition assembly members later charged in the National Assembly that telephone tapping and the interception of correspondence were prevalent. Ruling party assembly members, government officials, and senior military officials probably also were subjected to this interferencal though they did not openly complain.*

Listening to North Korean radio stations remained illegal in 1990 if it were judged to be for the purpose of "benefiting the antistate organization" (North Korea). Similarly, books or other literature considered subversive, procommunist, or pro-North Korean were illegal; authors, publishers, printers, and distributors of such material were subject to arrest.*

Use of tear gas by the police (over 260,000 tear gas shells were used in 1987 to quell demonstrations) increasingly was criticized; the criticism eventually resulted in legal restrictions on tear gas use in 1989. The government continued, however, to block many "illegal" gatherings organized by dissidents that were judged to incite "social unrest." In 1988 government statistics noted 6,552 rallies involving 1.7 million people. There were 2.2 million people who had particiated in 6,791 demonstrations in 1989.*

Reforming the South Korean Military After Pro-Democracy Demonstrations

After the inauguration of Roh Tae Woo as president in February 1988, attention once again reverted to North Korea as the foremost threat to security. Roh made good his promise to ensure the safety of athletes and spectators from around the world who came to Seoul for the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Japan and the United States provided direct security assistance during this period, the former by closely monitoring the thousands of airline flights and visitors passing through Tokyo and other Japanese cities en route to the event, the latter by deploying additional air, naval, and security units in and around South Korea before and during the Olympics. [Source: Andrea Matles Savada and William Shaw, Library of Congress, 1990 *]

Following the Olympics, Roh relaxed restrictions on South Korean contacts with North Koreans, gave in to increasing demands for social spending, and acknowledged growing skepticism about the threat from Pyongyang, all of which resulted in reducing the percentage of the budget spent on defense. These policies were designed to encourage reciprocal moves by North Korea and to reduce tension between the two Koreas.*

In 1989 Roh publicized plans to restructure the South Korean armed forces to enhance their defensive capabilities. Seoul also planned to acquire new types of technologically sophisticated weapons to prepare the armed forces for warfare and defense in the twenty-first century.*

Young-Ha Kim wrote in the New York Times: “From the early 1960s to the mid-1980s — the era of military dictatorship when South Korea was rebuilding itself from a postwar economic basket case to a humming, modern nation — military schools were the track of choice for ambitious young men. Bright, talented boys without enough money for private school tuition competed for the free education, housing and living stipend offered by the academies — and the status that came with enrollment. President Park Chung-hee, who held office from 1963-79, and the two presidents after him graduated from the Korea Military Academy. [Source: Young-Ha Kim, New York Times, March 5, 2014]

“The military suddenly lost its stature when the dictatorship ended in 1987. Today, being in the army means living on a modest salary in one of South Korea’s coldest regions near the demilitarized zone. Military men have trouble finding wives: Many young women, accustomed to a comfortable urban lifestyle (or, at least, aspiring to one), have little regard for professional soldiers. And the constant movement of a military life can be tough on children. My father was an officer in the army, and I was forced to change elementary schools six times.”

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons.

Text Sources: South Korean government websites, Korea Tourism Organization, Cultural Heritage Administration, Republic of Korea, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Library of Congress, CIA World Factbook, World Bank, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, “Culture and Customs of Korea” by Donald N. Clark, Chunghee Sarah Soh in “Countries and Their Cultures”, “Columbia Encyclopedia”, Korea Times, Korea Herald, The Hankyoreh, JoongAng Daily, Radio Free Asia, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, BBC, AFP, The Atlantic, The Guardian, Yomiuri Shimbun and various books and other publications.

Updated in July 2021

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