List of South Korean Presidents

Park Geun-hye, former president of South Korea. Editorial credit: Frederic Legrand - COMEO /
Park Geun-hye, former president of South Korea. Editorial credit: Frederic Legrand - COMEO /

The president of the Republic of Korea is directly elected through a secret ballot. He or she serves for a term of five years without the option of a reelection. The president is required to uphold the Constitution, preserve the borders of South Korea, veto bills, and has the powers to declare war. He or she has the powers to issue executive orders, issue pardons for convicts, gives medals in honor of excellent services, and declare a state of emergency. Some of the most notable Presidents of South Korea are looked at below.

Former Presidents of South Korea

Syngman Rhee

Syngman Rhee, born in 1875, was a South Korean statesman and the fist President for both the provisional government of South Korea and the Republic of Korea that followed. He was elected the president in August 1948 and served for three terms which ended upon his resignation in 1960. Syngman Rhee was an anti-communist leading the country through the Korean War. He strongly opposed the Soviet Union and the US to establish trustee for Korea. He spent almost a decade in the US before returning to South Korea to lead it to independence. Upon taking office as president, Rhee curtailed political dissent with several leftists arrested and some killed. His tenure was affected by the Cold War tension on the Korean Peninsula. Rhee’s leadership was also characterized by corruption and political repression. He resigned in 1960 and went into exile in Honolulu where he died of stroke on July 19, 1965.

Yun Bo-seon

Yun Bo-seon, born in 1897, was a Korean independence activist and a respected political figure who served as the second president of South Africa. He came into politics following the Liberation Day in 1945. He was appointed the Mayor of Seoul in 1948 and a year later he was made a minister in charge of Commerce and Industry. He was elected president in August 1960 after the ouster of President Rhee. However, he served merely as a figurehead since South Korea had switched to a parliamentary system. He resigned on March 22, 1962, following a coup by Park Chung Hee in 1961. Yun Bo-seon died on July 18, 1990.

Park Chung-hee

Park Chung-hee, born in 1917, was a dictator, president, and military army officer who led the country for 18 years beginning in 1961. He captured power after a coup that brought to an end the Second Republic of Korea in 1961 becoming the third president of the South Korea. He remains a controversial figure in South Korea his supporters consider him as the greatest leader ever in the history of the country. However, his authoritarian rule and numerous abuses of human rights make him the worst leader among his opponents. Park is credited with economic growth and development of the country and began the normalization of the relationship between South Korea and Japan. He was assassinated by one of his security services on October 26, 1979.

Incumbent President Moon Jae-in

Moon Jae-in is the current president of South Korea. He has held the office since 2017. 

Presidents Of South Korea

Presidents of South KoreaTerm in Office
Syngman Rhee
Yun Bo-seon
Park Chung-hee
Choi Kyu-hah
Chun Doo-hwan
Roh Tae-woo
Kim Young-sam
Kim Dae-jung
Roh Moo-hyun
Lee Myung-bak
Park Geun-hye (Incumbent)2013-Present

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