ALL the leaders of South Korea's first Five Republics were forced out of power in disgrace or met with violent deaths.
The First Republic, which began in 1948, came to an end after 12 years, with the exile of the then president Syngman Rhee to Hawaii. Robert E. Bedeski, author of the book The Transformation of South Korea, says the contribution of Rhee in creating a modern state was undeniable, but his use of corrupt methods and force against rivals damaged prospects for democracy. Facing electoral defeat in 1960, Rhee rigged the polls, sparking off popular demonstrations which forced him to resign.
The Second Republic emerged soon afterwards, but civilian rule was aborted by a military coup in 1961, and former army generals ruled till the end of Roh Tae Woo's term in 1993.
The Hwarang warrior elite in Korea formed the core of the military and enjoyed much status and power in society. Martial law and a ban on political parties followed the coup of May 1961. But facing widespread demonstrations and discontent, the military junta...