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South Korea & North Korea (Gorbachev MkII)


8 August

South Korean dissident, Kim Dae-Jung, is named permanent advisor to the New Korea Democratic Party. He remains under house arrest during the party convention and his election is a direct attack on the junta in Seoul.

9 December

With the loss of vital Soviet aid and following up on the previous year’s joint venture law, Kim Il Sung announces the establishment of free trade zones in North Korea. As well as plans for Kaesong, the north-eastern city of Najin and the metropolis of Chongjin will be redeveloped. China has assumed responsibility for sponsoring the North Korean regime.


5 February

Hyundai launches the Excel at the Houston Motor Show. Along with Daewoo and Samsung, it is one of a number of South Korean companies that are beginning to successfully invade foreign markets.

26 February

International concern is expressed about South Korean democracy activist, Kim Dae Jung, who has commenced a hunger strike against President Chun Doo Hwan until he and all leaders of the New Korea Democratic Party are freed from prison. President Chun states that the nation will begin further political reform after the 1988 Olympics, but most wanting constitutional change are unprepared to wait that long.

10 March

President Chun Doo Hwan meets with opposition leaders in South Korea’s Blue House during talks sponsored by US Secretary of State George Schultz. Many of the attendees are technically under arrest at the time of their meeting with the President, but, after the crisis in the Philippines and the move toward economic reform in the north of the peninsula, the United States is no longer prepared to wait for democratic reform.

24 March

Inspired by the deposing of Marcos in the Philippines, 4,500 South Koreans take to the streets of Seoul, back by petitions with millions of signatures. They demand the resignation of President Chun Doo Hwan. The calls are backed by Cardinal Kim Sou Hwan, the Roman Catholic primate of South Korea. The US State Department warns that such actions are “irresponsible”, but President Chun agrees not to use riot police to stop any protests unless they engage in violence.

11 April

Large demonstrations in Kwangju, Pusan and Taegu rock the South Korean government and the patience of President Chun Doo Hwan has run out. Two and a half weeks of freedom have resulted in mass demonstrations against his authoritarian government, forcing the use of water cannon, rubber bullets and tear gas. It is agreed in Washington that Defence Secretary Caspar Weinberger will visit Seoul. He expresses concern that North Korean forces have massed near the DMZ.

6 May

President of South Korea Chun Doo Hwan is offered the opportunity to evacuate his cabal to the United States, after being forced to call a constitutional congress and promising to leave office before the Olympics are held. He declines the offer, believing that the military can remain in power after a democratic election.

26 May

Concern is expressed for the future of reform in North Korea after it is revealed that South Korean movie director Shin Sang Ok and his wife, Choi Un Hui defected two months ago from Pyongyang. Rather than being voluntary participants in the North Korean movie business, they claim they were kidnapped and held against their will. They state that North Korea has now fallen under the control of Kim Jong-Il, the 45-year-old son of the aging strongman, President Kim Il Sung. Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang states that North Korea remains committed to integrating Chinese-style reforms in return for reconstruction aid.

30 May

The Seoul National University is firebombed by anti-American demonstrators, who protest the US refusal to “pull the plug” on the South Korean government. In the seaport city of Pusan, inflamed students break into the US consulate and occupy the building for over an hour. One student publicly immolates himself, leaping from the roof of a university building shouting, “Out with U.S. imperialism.”

26 October

South Korean Assemblyman Yoo Sung Hwan is arrested after projecting he will deliver a speech in favour of reconciliation with the North, in violation of the National Security Law. He faces up to seven years in prison

8 November

Violence rocks university campuses in South Korea as students sustain a four-day occupation of campuses. Thousands of students are detained in violent battles, with four killed.

28 November

Speakers across the DMZ announce that “the whole nation of North Korea responds positively and supports the firm grasp of General O Jin U”. There is speculation that a coup d’état has occurred in Pyongyang, but there is no further information. It emerges over the next three days that the North Koreans have reached a debt crisis, its economy has collapsed and daily food rations are down 15%.


27 January

President Chun Doo Hwan of South Korea dismisses two ministers from his government after it is revealed, after many denials, that a number of students have been killed by water torture. The source is a doctor who has been called in to treat various injuries inflicted by the South Korean government officers on the citizenry and has recently defected to China.

15 March

Commemorating the death of a student killed by torture during a police interrogation, tens of thousands of South Korean students take to the streets to demand the overthrow of the military dictatorship of Chun Doo Hwan. Some hold anti-US banners and chant that the United States is responsible for the division of the peninsula. They are attacked with tear gas by police, who are also seen beating Buddhist monks who marched with the students. US Secretary of State George Schultz is immediately dispatched to Seoul.

24 March

Protestors against US Secretary of State George Schultz take to the streets across the cities of South Korea. The numbers are swelling as they do, with some suggesting that the number of those opposing President Chun Doo Hwan by activist protests may now exceed one hundred thousand. They will continue to grow over the coming days.

26 March

Five South Korean army members are shot and killed during running conflicts between members of the armed forces and police, after police refuse to open fire on protestors. It is never verified how many of the protestors and police are killed in the exchange, but protestors continue to regroup. President Chun Doo Hwan is nowhere to be seen as communications centres, government buildings and transport hubs are seized by protestors. Later, it will become clear that protestor numbers represent close to a third of the population.

27 March

President Chun Doo Hwan addresses the South Korean nation on morning television. He states that the protests are the work of interference by North Korea and a form of aggression against the sovereignty of the nation. It does nothing to reduce the general chaos. US Secretary of Schultz George Schultz, leaving the country that night, offers President Chun and his entourage a place on his plane. The President declines.

28 March

General Oh Ja Bok and Defence Minister Roh Tae Woo of South Korea order army personnel to return to their quarters, while arranging the evacuation of the Blue House via helicopter. However, upon arrival at the airport, President Chun Doo Hwan is placed under arrest by police and taken to a compound in downtown Seoul where he is held for the next two days.

30 March

Acting President of South Korea, Roh Tae Woo, announces that democratic elections will be restored within six months, all political prisoners will be released and the army rule ended permanently. He calls upon those elements which remain loyal to the former regime to lay down their arms, but it will be another five days before violence ceases completely in the cities across South Korea. The death toll will eclipse one thousand people, the most noted casualty being former President Chun, who has been sentenced to death by a summary court martial. The execution is carried out today without executive approval or knowledge.

17 April

Newly-released South Korean dissidents, Kim Dae Jung and Kim Young Sam, form the United Democratic Party, choosing to separate from the traditional opposition leadership of the New Korea Party. The latter will fold with the departure of their two most charismatic leaders.

26 April

South Korean President Roh Tae Woo uses the recent defections from the opposition to suggest that he will single-handedly design the new constitution, creating an electoral college that will guarantee the continuation of military control. The two Kims, Dae Jung and Young Sam, suggest that the government has no serious desire for reform and are hoping that the execution of the late President has vented the build-up of tension within South Korean society. Cardinal Kim Sou Hwan states that the hope of a “brighter era” has been shattered. By week’s end, protests involving 13,000 students have once again rocked the capital.

23 May

Police sent to break up riots at South Korean universities find themselves taken hostage as twelve hundred clergy from all denominations gather in downtown Seoul at a prayer vigil. Artists and professors sign petitions drawing comparisons between elections in Pyongyang and Seoul. US House Chairman of the Asian and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee, Stephen Solarz, states that the US cannot continue to countenance the denial of democracy to South Koreans. He suggests an end to development credit and a denial of commercial landing rights to South Korean aircraft to pressure the regime.

6 June

Acting President of South Korea, Roh Tae Woo, announces the removal and detention of Justice and Home Affairs Minister Lho Shin Yong, along with head of the State Security Agency, Chang Se Dong. Both have been compromised after public revelations that they were involved in the drowning murder of a student in January, but others suggest that this may be Roh’s attempt to consolidate his own dictatorship and dilute his own complicity.

12 June

South Korean opposition leader Kim Young Sam demands the resignation of President Roh Tae Woo, stating that he has no constitutional right to exercise authority, and that his only interest is the “extension of the power of the ruling party”. He also calls for the release of all political prisoners and the removal of convictions of those arrested during the Gwangju massacre.

16 June

Thousands of demonstrators take to the streets of Seoul and over twenty other cities across South Korea. They demand an end to the dictatorship, occupying department stores, cathedrals and other public spaces. Over four thousand people are detained by authorities.

23 June

After six months of virtual silence from the “hermit kingdom” of North Korea, President Kim Il-Sung appears on state television with his deputy, O Jin-U. There is no clear information about rumours of a potential coup early in the year. After two years of complete diplomatic and trade isolation, analysts agree that the state’s agricultural and industrial base has begun to collapse.

24 June

The International Olympic Committee privately advises South Korea that, without a change in conditions within the next five months, they will need to move the 1988 Summer Olympics to Nagoya, Japan. They cite the central government’s inability to guarantee an Olympics free from boycotts and violence. As this become public, the situation in South Korea becomes increasingly confrontational.

26 June

CIA sources inside South Korea note that the civil unrest is “the most serious we have seen in seven years,” despite only two confirmed deaths. Twenty-five police stations have been burnt to the ground, after civilians and student leaders have disarmed the police and escorted them safely from the buildings. Similarly, buildings belonging to the ruling party and to the Korean national state broadcaster have also been occupied. Groups include students, the elderly, academics and religious leaders.

29 June

South Korean protestors break through the barricades to liberate leading opposition figure, Kim Dae Jung, from his home, which had been surrounded by government troops “for his own protection”. Thirteen other members of the National Assembly find themselves similarly liberated. The US Ambassador states that, while all the protestors oppose the government, they have not united in support behind other politicians.

1 July

President Arturo Tolentino of the Philippines, recently restored by the Congress to his position, visits South Korea and meets with President Roh Tae Woo. President Tolentino has recent experience dealing with a transition to democracy, and expresses the hope that he can offer the South Korean leader some solidarity and support.

4 July

US Secretary of State James Baker warns the South Korean President, Roh Tae Woo, that his country will not stand by if the army decides to crackdown on protests against the government. In response, Roh agrees to meet with opposition leader Kim Young Sam and restore the political rights of Kim Dae Jung.

7 July

South Korean President Roh Tae Woo and opposition leader Kim Young Sam announce that they have opened negotiations with opposition leaders to create a parliamentary republic. The President was convinced by his children of the need for fundamental change in South Korea. He also expresses a belief that South Korea will have a fair and democratic election before the end of the year and a ceremonial president chosen by a parliament.

12 July

There are claims of disunity of the South Korean opposition. Kim Young Sam is calling for jubilant celebration over the President’s concessions and already on the campaign trail, while Kim Dae Jung has refused to make public appearances. However, for the first time in many months, there is peace on the streets of South Korean cities. President Roh Tae Woo states that, while there are some constitutional changes to be made this year, electoral rules have greater importance in ensuring the credibility of whoever rules South Korea next year. He also states that he is immediately abolishing most of the guidelines for the press.

16 July

President Roh Tae Woo of South Korea grants formal amnesty to 2,892 South Koreans who have been held or had their rights suspended over politically related offences. He also announces that he will run against Kim Young Sam. Kim Dae Jung has again confirmed that he will not be seeking to divide the opposition by running his own presidential campaign, but that he might run for a seat in the National Assembly.

25 July

Kim Young Sam calls for President Roh Tae Woo to establish a new Cabinet of national unity, replacing members of the latter’s Democratic Justice Party with members of the opposition. Kim states that the Cabinet is too biased to preside fairly over a transition to democracy.

21 August

In light of the political achievement of protest action, South Koreans call a general strike, claiming that while the industrialists have benefited from twenty years of economic growth, they have not. South Koreans have the longest working week in the industrialised world and their wages are 15% of US wages in terms of purchasing power. President Roh Tae Woo states that he will side with labour in order to “compensate for the many sacrifices they have made for national economic development”.

30 August

South Korean chaebol, Hyundai Group, announces that the conglomerate’s workforce will be returning to business tomorrow, ending the strike which has threatened its collapse over the last month. While it is not clear what the new conditions will be, South Korean union organisers state that Hyundai has pledged to open talks and has made a “reasonable counter-offer” to union executives. Another chaebol, Daewoo, expresses the view that it will pay close attention to Hyundai’s progress.

1 September

The xenophobic worker state of North Korea is declared to be in default on its foreign debt. Its per capita income has fallen below one third that of its southern neighbour and its GDP by about 20%. Academics and experts who have visited the country report that automobiles and trucks are being adapted to burn wood and food has been rationed. The Soviet Union and China have also cancelled oil shipments due to non-payment of bills, while European banks state that they will no longer allow the shipments of gold for deposit in North Korean accounts.

11 September

President Roh Tae Woo of South Korea announces that democratic elections will be held for the National Assembly on 20 December and that a new President, elected by the National Assembly, will take office on 1 January, 1988. It is widely believed that the latter will be a showdown between the incumbent and Kim Young Sam.

15 September

Rumours emanate out of South Korea’s Reunification Democratic Party that Kim Young Sam will seek the presidential office, while Kim Dae Jung will run for the more powerful office of Prime Minister. These rumours are believed to have been started by supporters of Kim Dae Jung, who today gives a speech at a cemetery in Kwangju. The site is the location of the bodies of over 190 people killed in the 1980 Uprising and is sacred to many South Koreans.

10 October

Kim Dae Jung and his supporters challenge Kim Young Sam for the leadership of the Unification Democratic Party and lose by just two percent of the delegate votes. In response, Kim Dae Jung splits the party in two, walking out to form the Peace & Democracy Party and pledging to contest the December elections for parliament under his own banner. Kim Young Sam states that this is a battle for control of the anti-government forces and that his challenger is so radical that he will prompt another military coup d’etat if he secures victory.

7 November

The South Korean President, Roh Tae Woo, announces Kang Young Hoon as the prime ministerial candidate for his United New Democratic Party. Current polling is showing that the UNDP will be the largest party to emerge from the December elections due to the split in the opposition.

29 November

Three North Koreans are detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport. KGB Director Viktor Chebrikov releases a statement claiming that the individuals were carrying C-4 explosives and PLX explosives and that one of them, a 26-year-old female, has confessed that they are North Korean agents. In a press conference later in the day, Chebrikov reveals that the agents planned to down a Korean Airline jet to disrupt South Korean elections and to frighten those planning to attend the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

30 November

Condemning the terrorist plans by the North Korean government, the USSR announces that it will place tight restrictions on trade with Pyongyang, will end all formal economic relations, seize North Korean assets, terminate their right to diplomatic immunity and prohibit financial relations between Soviet citizens and North Korean citizens.

8 December

In light of the recent detention of two North Korean spies and evidence they were personally commissioned by Kim Jung Il, son of President Kim Il Sung, South Korean President Roh Tae Woo withdraws the offer to North Korea to allow it to stage some events in the upcoming Olympics.

12 December

In parliamentary elections in South Korea, Kang Young Hoon and the military-backed Democratic Justice Party wins 100 seats, forming the largest political bloc in the new National Assembly. Both Kim Young Sam’s Unification Democratic Party and Kim Dae Jung’s Peaceful Democratic Party achieve 87 seats each, with 25 seats going to minor parties. President Roh Tae Woo invites Kang to attempt to form a new government.

16 December

Kang Young Hoon is installed as the new Prime Minister of South Korea for a three-year term, announcing a coalition agreement with the UDP led by Kim Young Sam, who becomes Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice. Opposition leader Kim Dae Jung claims that the “people have been betrayed” by Kim Young Sam. It is confirmed that Roh Tae Woo will remain the President of South Korea, but his powers under the new constitution will be extremely limited.

26 December

South Korean Prime Minister Kang Young Hoon, in his first interview, states that he will serve only one three-year for term as head of government and will not stand for re-election to the next National Assembly. He also pledges a “civil and positive relationship” with Kim Young Sam, expressing a hope that the coalition parties will be able to “reach a deep understanding”. Kang is a former President of the Red Cross, ambassador and expert on national security and foreign affairs. More importantly as far as radicals are concerned, he had vocally opposed the overthrow of the Second Republic in 1961 and the military interference in politics since.

31 December

South Korean Prime Minister Kang Young Hoon and Japanese Prime Minister Shintaro Abe meet in Tokyo. Kang states that he is interested in improving relations between South Korea and China, in the hope that China will be able to act as an intercessory between Seoul and its northern neighbour. Kang claims that he will “give priority to issues of national reconciliation“ following the Olympics.


6 March

President Roh Tae Woo of South Korea, on instruction from Prime Minister Kang Young Hoon, announces amnesties for over seventeen hundred prisoners currently held under security legislation. He also states that the government will be investigating pardons for those who “may have been convicted under an error in law”, i.e. those who worked against Roh’s predecessor.

27 March

South Korean opposition leader, Kim Dae Jung, proposes an alliance with Deputy Prime Minister Kim Young Sam. In doing so, he hopes to dislodge the military-backed government. However, the Deputy PM states that he will remain loyal to his coalition with Kang Young Hoon.

8 April

The younger brother of former President Chun Doo Hwan of South Korea is arrested in Seoul on charges of tax evasion and embezzlement. It leads to calls for the investigation and charging of the former President himself and his successor, incumbent Roh Tae Woo. The latter had supervised the brother’s activities as a minister.

28 May

Prime Minister Kang Young Hoon of South Korea attends a ceremony in Kwangju to observe the eighth anniversary of the uprising. Previously, the government had tried to ban such observances, but this year, there is a new road to the cemetery where the victims of the uprising are buried.

16 June

Thirteen thousand South Korean students march through the streets of downtown Seoul calling for reunification with North Korea. South Korean President Roh Tae Woo responds, stating that reunification remains a “top priority” and revealing that unofficial talks, involving twenty-six representatives from north and south, took place at Panmunjom last week. He warns that relations between the two nations remain “hostile”.

18 July

South Korean Prime Minister Kang Young Hoon announces that, as a first step to end tensions on the Korean peninsula, his nation has opened diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China. He expects to have Chinese support, in return, for an agreement with North Korea, the terms of which would include Pyongyang’s renunciation of force, recognition of the current “interim border” and establishment of formal “representatives” in each others’ capitals by the end of next year.

21 July

South Korean Prime Minister Kang Young Hoon announces the resumption of mail services to North Korea and calls for a greater level of family reunification admissions. He also confirms that the daily propaganda broadcasts across the DMZ will be suspended until after the Olympics, now only two months away.

28 August

Parliamentary representatives from North and South Korea meet in Panmunjom against the background of pro-unification rallies in Seoul for the first discussions between the countries in nearly three years. For the first time, representatives agree to recognise the official names of each country. There is also a suggestion from Pyongyang that the two countries hold a joint sitting of their Parliaments, but the South counters a preference for a permanent joint standing committee. Neither side agrees to the proposal of the other.

1 November

President Roh Tae Woo of South Korea is advised by the National Assembly that he is under investigation, along with 54 others, for alleged misdeeds during the tenure of General Chun Doo Hwan. Other being interrogated are Lee Soon Ja, the former dictator’s widow, and former head of National Security Planning, Chang Se Dong.

28 November

Pressure is growing for the resignation of South Korean President Roh Tae Woo as the committee convened early in the month reveal sordid details of the corruption in which the military government, of which he was a member, was involved. Rumours are circulating that the President may be prepared to resign in return for a pardon and a guarantee of a comfortable retirement.

4 December

President Roh Tae Woo of South Korea appears on national television and offers an abject apology for crimes committed by the government of which he was a member for 7 ½ years. He announces that he will resign as head of state and that the National Assembly has agreed to name 71-year-old Kim Chung Yul, a former ambassador to the United States and chief of the armed forces during the Korean War, as his successor. Kim is one of the few independents chosen at the last parliamentary elections. Roh will withdraw from public life completely.

9 December

Chinese Secretary General Zhao Ziyang visits North Korea, advising aging leader Kim Il-Sung that he can no longer continue to offer concessions to Pyongyang while the country fails to meet its debt obligations to China. Industrial outputs have already been in decline in the hermit state for five years and now agricultural output is also falling, with North Korean media condemning the traditional three meals per day as “unhealthy capitalist excess”. It is estimated that, on current trends, the economy will contract by 50% by 1994.


27 January

North Korean President Kim Il Sung agrees to a meeting between his Prime Minister Yon Hyong Mok and his South Korean counterpart, Kim Young Hoon, on 8 February. The two men will discuss the potential for a summit between the leadership of both countries and consult on long-standing demands by the North.

10 February

Following three days of talks in Panmunjon, South Korean Prime Minister Kang Young Hoon announces that a small but significant step has been taken in peace on the peninsula. The North Koreans have agreed to sign an interim agreement renouncing the use of force on the proviso that the United States reduces “significantly” the size of its contingent in South Korea, currently at 35,000. He states that he will approach talks with Washington in the near future to determine where cuts will be appropriate and prudent.

6 June

South Korean chaebol, Samsung Electronics, agrees to merge its manufacture of dynamic RAM chips with Hyundai Electronics Industries, swapping three HEI shares for one Samsung share. The deal costs Samsung $6.43 billion, making it the largest business merger deal to date in South Korea.

See Also

timelines/korea_from_gorbachev_mk2.txt · Last modified: 2012/06/24 08:30 by Petike