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1965: S Korea's first president dies in exile

The former leader of the Republic of South Korea, Syngman Rhee, has died in exile in the US state of Hawaii at the age of 90.

In 1948 Mr Rhee became South Korea's first president after elections in which he gained 180 of the 196 votes of National Assembly members.

Mr Rhee spent much of his life in the US after leaving Korea in 1904.

Prior to his departure he had spent seven years in jail for leading demonstrations against the Korean monarchy.

He returned briefly to Korea in 1910 when it was under Japanese control but, after clashing with the new leadership, left again to head a Korean Government in exile.

Autocratic

Syngman Rhee did not return until Japan's defeat in the Second World War and the occupation of Korea by American and Soviet troops.

In 1948 the country was divided at the 38th parallel and the Soviet Union set up a Democratic People's Republic of Korea in the north while the US helped establish the Republic of Korea in the south.

Mr Rhee emerged as the main anti-communist politician in South Korea and in 1947 he received the unofficial support of the US Government in his bid to become president.

Although first elected on a popular mandate Mr Rhee's style became increasingly autocratic.

In 1954 he forced through amendments to the South Korean constitution to allow him to extend his term of office indefinitely.

However, in 1960 he was forced into a final exile after public unrest over election fraud which saw him returned to office with a massive majority.

In Context
South Korea continued to be governed by authoritarian rulers for decades but at the same time became one of the world's major economies.

After the return to multi-party politics in 1987, President Roh Tae-Woo launched an anti-corruption campaign.

Relations with its northern neighbour have been the South's major concern.

The United States still keeps around 37,000 troops in South Korea to guard against a repeat of the 1950 invasion by North Korea.

But after five decades of suspicion and hostility, the ice has begun to melt - in June 2000 the leaders of North and South Korea met and shook hands in Pyongyang, North Korea.


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