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Establishment of the Republic of Korea

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For Koreans, who had long been denied their independence in all walks of life, the Japanese surrender in 1945 brought many challenges. One of the challenges included ideological conflicts between various groups, conflicts which were not uncommon to the experiences of many postcolonial people. This was due in large part to the fact that Koreans were suddenly faced with the difficulty of overcoming and liquidating colonial conditions accumulated during the four decades of Japanese domination. Liberation did not bring independence for which the Koreans had fought so hard, but the inception of ideological conflict in a partitioned country.

The occupation of a divided Korea by the United States and the Soviet Union frustrated the efforts of Koreans to establish an independent government. The transplantation of two conflicting political ideologies south and north of the 38th parallel further intensified the national split. Among the Allies, the foreign ministers of the United States, the Soviet Union and Britain met in Moscow on December 15, 1945, and decided to put Korea under the trusteeship of the four powers - the United States, the USSR, Britain and China - as a provisional step to unite the divided country. Korea protested against the international decision, imposed only four months after liberation from colonial rule, since it cast a shadow over Korean hopes for establishment of an independent government. The determination to resist and defy foreign domination, no matter what form it might take, is shared by all formerly colonized peoples.

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Although the Communists changed their initial opposition to support, probably due to instructions from Moscow, the vast majority of the people determinedly opposed trusteeship as another form of colonial rule. This problem, together with conflict of ideologies, further accelerated the national division. In the Soviet-occupied area, the opposition to the trusteeship was suppressed, and Cho Man-shik, the prominent national leader, was put under arrest by the Soviet authorities.

Thus the partitioned occupation of Korea by the United States and the Soviet Union, together with internal conflicts, frustrated efforts for independence and unity. The series of postwar international decisions made without regard for the Korean people left them far from their goal of national independence.

After the Soviet Union and the United States occupied Korea, each imposing its own system on the area under its jurisdiction, political conflict and social disorder became rampant. The internal disorder south of the 38th parallel worsened in proportion to the rigid regimentation of society under the Communist system in the North until 1948, when two ideologically opposed governments were established.

On the basis of the realities of the Korean Peninsula, the government of the Republic of Korea was proclaimed on August 15, 1948, inheriting the legitimacy of the Provisional Government in Shanghai. Without being able to eliminate the vestiges of colonial rule, the new government of Korea faced the pressing task of reconstructing the bankrupt economy left by the Japanese, and the chaos of the three years of the post-liberation period. These, together with various other problems, were too demanding a task for a new and inexperienced government.

The ideological confrontation between the South and the North inevitably gave rise to a tense military confrontation, another major burden placed on the government. In 1948, the U.S. Military Government handed over to the ROK Government its administrative authority. This was followed by the conclusion between the Republic of Korea and the United States of a provisional military pact and the establishment of the Economic Cooperation Administration.

In 1948, the United States withdrew its occupation forces from Korea, leaving only a small group of military advisers. The Soviet Union had already done the same in the northern half of Korea, where the Democratic People's Republic of Korea was established. A number of agreements were concluded for the Soviet Union to provide North Korea with military, economic, technological, and cultural assistance. China also established diplomatic relations with North Korea. In 1949, the Communist army in North Korea provoked sporadic skirmishes along the 38th parallel.

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Information provided by the Korean Embassy

 


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