Syngman Rhee

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Syngman Rhee
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Took Office: March 3, 1948
Left Office: May 3, 1960
Predecessor: Kim Kyu Sik
Successor: Ho Chong
Date of Birth: March 26, 1875
Place of Birth: Hwanghae, Korea
Date of Death: July 19, 1962
Place of Death: Honolulu, Hawai`i, United States
Korean Name
Hangul: 이승만
Hanja: 李承晚
Revised Romanization: I Seung-man
McCune-Reischauer: Yi Sŭng-man
Political party: Liberal Party

Syngman Rhee (March 26, 1875 - July 19, 1965) was a Korean politician and the first president of South Korea. His rule, from March 1948 to April 1960, remains a matter of controversy, arising from Cold War tensions on the Korean peninsula and elsewhere. Rhee, a professed Christian, was identified strongly with the conservative, anti-Communist side in Korean politics and geopolitics, and led South Korea throughout the Korean War. His presidency ended in resignation following popular protests against a disputed election. He died in exile in Hawaii.

He was the co-author, with P.K. Yoon, of the Petition from the Koreans of Hawaii to U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, which appealed to the Americans in face of Japanese aggression in 1905.

Rhee obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree at George Washington University in 1907 and a Master's Degree in 1909 at Harvard Univerisity. Rhee enrolled at Princeton University in September of 1909 and obtained a Ph.D. on June 14, 1910 at the age of 33.

During the Japanese occupation of Korea (1910-1945), he was elected president of the provisional government in exile. Rhee became unpopular with his allies in the Korean conflict when he refused to agree to a number of ceasefire proposals that would have left Korea divided. His hope throughout the war was that, with UN help, he would be made leader of a united Korean peninsula; he tried to veto any peace plan that would not eliminate the northern government completely. He pushed for stronger methods to be used against the People's Republic of China and was often irate at the U.S. reluctance to bomb it.

After southern Korea was liberated, he became the first president and served three consecutive terms. He governed in an authoritarian manner and allowed the internal security force to detain and torture several suspected Communists and North Korean agents. His government also oversaw several massacres, the most notable being on the island of Jeju in response to a secessionist uprising. While massacres did occur under the regimes that succeeded Rhee, they were fewer in number and less widespread.

On January 18, 1952, Rhee declared South Korean sovereignty over the waters around the Korean peninsula, in a concept similar to that of today's exclusive economic zones. The maritime demarcation thus drawn up, which Rhee called the "Peace Line", included the uninhabited islets named Liancourt Rocks. This led to protests from the Japanese government, which claimed that the islets should be considered Japanese territory. Minor clashes followed, but the islets have thereafter been under South Korean occupation.

He arranged an amendment to the constitution to run for a fourth term in 1960, and his victory seemed assured when the main opposition candidate died shortly before the March 15 elections. The real contest was in the race for vice president (held separately under the law of the time), and Rhee's heir apparent Yi Gi-bung was declared the victor in an election that the opposition claimed was rigged. This sparked off anger among segments of the Korean populace, and the student-led April 19 Movement forced Rhee to resign on April 26.

On April 28, a DC-4 belonging to the CIA operated Civil Air Transport (CAT) swiped Rhee out of South Korea and away from the clutches of a lynch mob that was closing in. Kim Yong Kap, Rhee's Deputy Minister of Finance, revealed that President Rhee had embezzeled $20 million in goverment funds. Rhee, his wife and adopted son lived in exile on 2033 Makiki Street in Honolulu, Hawai'i. On July 19, 1965 Rhee died of a stroke.

Rhee's ideology has been summarized as "뭉치면 살고 흩어지면 죽는다" or "United we stand, divided we die (or fall)". His presidential library is the Woo-Nam Presidential Preservation Foundation.

See also

External links

Preceded by:
Establishment of the Republic
Presidents of Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea
Succeeded by:
Park Eunsik
Preceded by:
Kim Kyu Sik
Chairmen of the Interim Legislative Assembly
Succeeded by:
Syngman Rhee
(Speaker of the Constituent Assembly)
Preceded by:
Syngman Rhee
(Chairmen of the Interim Legislative Assembly)
Speaker of the Constituent Assembly
Succeeded by:
Syngman Rhee
(President of South Korea)
Preceded by:
Kim Gu
(President of the Provisional Government)
Syngman Rhee
(Speaker of the Constituent Assembly)
President of South Korea
Succeeded by:
Yun Po Sun

Template:End boxde:Syngman Rhee ko:이승만 ja:李承晩 pl:Li Syng Man zh:李承晚


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