List of Presidents of South Korea

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Presidential Standard and Seal of the President of South Korea
To avoid confusion, all the names on this list follow the Eastern order convention (family name first, given name second) for consistency.

Since the establishment of the Government of the Republic of Korea which is commonly known as South Korea in 1948, twelve people have served nineteen terms as President of South Korea. Under the Constitution of South Korea, the president is the country's head of state as well as its head of government. The president is also the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces.

Prior to the establishment of the First Republic in 1948, the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea established in Shanghai in September 1919 as the continuation of several governments proclaimed in the aftermath of March 1st Movement earlier that year coordinated Korean people's resistance against Japan during the Japanese occupation of Korea. The legitimacy of the Provisional Government has been recognised and succeeded by South Korea in the latter's original Constitution of 1948 and the current Constitution of 1988. Nine people have served twenty-four terms as Heads of State (with varying titles) of the Provisional Government between September 1919 and August 1948.

The presidential term has been set at five years since 1988. It was previously set at four years from 1948 to 1972, six years from 1972 to 1981, and seven years from 1981 to 1988. Since 1981, the president has been barred from reelection. The president must be a South Korean citizen, at least 40 years old, who has lived in South Korea for 5 years.

List of Heads of State of the Provisional Government

Heads of Governments Proclaimed after the March 1st Movement (1919)

Following the March 1st Movement with the Declaration of Independence, several groups within Korea and Korean diaspora proclaimed the establishment of republican governments, claiming to be the representation of the Korean people. Three of these proclaimed governments remained active in the months thereafter and amalgamated to form the unified Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea.

Four other governments were proclaimed in the aftermaths of the March 1st Movement but these did not have significant activity following the proclamation.

  • The Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea (조선민국임시정부) proclaimed in Seoul on 19 April 1919: President (정도령) Son Byong-hi
  • The Government of the New Republic of Korea (신한민국정부) proclaimed in Northwestern Korea including Pyongyang on 17 April 1919: Consul (집정관) Lee Dong-hwi
  • The Republican Government of Korea (고려공화정부) proclaimed in Manchuria in early 1919
  • The Provisional Government in Jiandao (간도임시정부) proclaimed in Jilin in early 1919

There was a further plan to proclaim The Civil Government of Korea (대한민간정부) on 1 April 1919 with Son Byong-hi as the President (대통령) in the anticipation of the success of the March 1st Movement; the planned proclamation was not distributed.

Consul-President of the Republic of Korea (Seoul Government)

The Republic of Korea (대한공화국) was proclaimed in Seoul on April 23, 1919, by 24 representativse gathered from 13 provinces of Korea. It is commonly known as the Seoul Government (한성정부). Syngman Rhee was elected by the assembled representatives as the Consul-President (집정관 총재). Rhee sent letters to foreign heads of state including those of the United States, Japan and the United Kingdom notifying these countries of the proclamation of the Republic and his election as the President. It was agreed at the time of the amalgamation with the Governments of Shanghai and Vladivostok that the new unified Provisional Government is the successor government of the legitimacy of the Seoul Government.

No. Picture Name
(Birth–Death)
Tenure Deputy
1 Rhee Syng-Man in 1956.jpg Rhee Syngman
이승만
李承晩

(1875–1965)
23 April
1919
11 September
1919
Premier-President Lee Dong-hwi
Also the Head of the Shanghai Government as the Chancellor and the Prime Minister of the Vladivostok Government under President Son Byong-hi before the amalgamation of the governments. Became the President of the unified Provisional Government on 11 September 1919 but impeached in 1925. Chairman of the State Council of the Provisional Government 1947-1948. President of South Korea 1948-1960.

Chancellors of the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea (Shanghai Government)

The Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea (대한민국 임시정부) was established in Shanghai on 11 April 1919 as a result of the first meeting of the Provisional Assembly from the previous night (10 April 1919). Syngman Rhee was elected as the Chancellor (국무총리). The Government was amalgamated with the Governments proclaimed in Seoul and Vladivostok on 11 September 1919 to form the unified Provisional Government.

No. Picture Name
(Birth–Death)
Tenure Deputy
1 Rhee Syng-Man in 1956.jpg Rhee Syngman
이승만
李承晩

(1875–1965)
11 April
1919
23 April
1919
Also the Head of State of the Seoul Government as the Consul-President and the Prime Minister of the Vladivostok Government under President Son Byong-hi before the amalgamation of the governments. Became the President of the unified Provisional Government on 11 September 1919 but impeached in 1925. Chairman of the State Council of the Provisional Government 1947-1948. President of South Korea 1948-1960.
2 Yi Dong-nyeong
이동녕
李東寧

(1869–1940)
23 April
1919
28 June
1919
Later served for twelve years over four different periods as the Head of State of the unified Provisional Government. Died in Office in 1940.
From 28 June 1919 until 27 August 1919, Director-General of the Interior Ahn Changho (안창호 / 安昌浩) was Acting Chancellor.
3 Yi Donghwi. Yi Dong-hwi
이동휘
李東輝

(1873–1935)
27 August
1919
11 September
1919
Continued to serve as the Prime Minister of the Unified Provisional Government after September 1919 under President Syngman Rhee

President of the National Congress of Korea (Vladivostok Government)

The National Congress of Korea (대한국민의회) was proclaimed in Vladivostok on 17 March 1919 by the Korean diaspora living in Primorsky Krai, as the re-organisation of the Korean Central Assembly (한족중앙총회). Son Byong-hi, the leader of 33 representatives who signed the Korean Declaration of Independence on 1 March 1919, was elected as the President. The government was amalgamated with the governments proclaimed in Seoul and Shanghai on 11 September 1919.

No. Picture Name
(Birth–Death)
Tenure Deputy
1 SonByeongHui.jpg Son Byong-hi
손병희
孫秉熙

(1861-1922)
17 March
1919
11 September
1919
Vice President Park Young-ho
Prime Minister Syngman Rhee
The leader of the 33 representatives who signed the Korean Declaration of Independence during the March 1st Movement. The Head of Cheondogyo 1897-1908. He was in Japanese custody throughout the term as the President, having been arrested in the March 1st Movement.

Heads of State of the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea (1919-1948)

Three of the Governments proclaimed in 1919 continued to be active in the months after the March 1st Movement; the Governments proclaimed in Seoul, Shanghai and Vladivostok. After a period of negotiations, members of these three governments agreed to form the unified Provisional Government in Shanghai, with succession of the legitimacy of the Seoul Government and bringing the members of the Vladivostok legislature into the Shanghai legislature. The unified Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea was established on 11 September 1919 with a new constitution.

The forms of the government from September 1919 were:

  • Presidency (대통령제): 1919-1925
  • Presidency of the Governance (국무령제): 1925-1927
  • State Council Directory (국무위원제): 1927-1940
  • Chairpersonship of the State Council (국무위원회 주석제): 1940-1948

In total, nine people served twenty-four terms as the Heads of States of the Provisional Government between September 1919 and August 1948, when the last Chairman of the State Council Syngman Rhee became the first President of South Korea.

No. Picture Name
(Birth–Death)
Term Tenure Affiliation Deputy
Presidents (대통령)
1 Rhee Syng-Man in 1956.jpg Rhee Syng-man
이승만
李承晩

(1875–1965)
1 11 September
1919
1922 Prime Minister
Yi Dong-hwi
Yi Dong-nyeong (acting)
Shin Kyu-sik
Roh Baek-lin
Kim Koo (acting)
Yi Dong-nyeong
Park Eun-sik
2 1922 23 March
1925
From 6 June 1924 until 11 December 1924, Prime Minister Yi Dong-nyeong (이동녕 / 李東寧) served as the Acting President for Syngman Rhee.
From 11 December 1924 until 23 March 1925, Prime Minister Park Eun-sik (박은식 / 朴殷植) served as the Acting President for Syngman Rhee.
The first President of the unified Provisional Government. Previously the Consul-President of the Seoul Government and the Chancellor of the Shanghai Government, and the Prime Minister under President Son Byong-hi of the Vladivostok Government. Impeached in 1925. Later became the last Chairman of the State Council (1947) before becoming the first Speaker of the Constituent Assembly and then the first President of the Republic of Korea (1948-1960). The first Korean to earn a Ph.D from a University of the Western World (Princeton) in 1910. The Korean War from 1950 to 1953. Forced to resign in the April Revolution of 1960 and died in exile in Hawaii in 1965
2 박은식.JPG Park Eun-sik
박은식
朴殷植

(1859-1922)
3 23 March
1925
7 April
1925
Prime Minister
Roh Baek-lin
Elected after the impeachment of Syngman Rhee; the Constitutional amendment of 1925.
Presidents of Governance (국무령)
(2) 박은식.JPG Park Eun-sik
박은식
朴殷植

(1859-1922)
4 7 April
1925
26 September
1925
Prime Minister
Roh Baek-lin
During September 1925, Director-General of the Interior Lee Yu-pil (이유필 / 李裕弼) served as the Acting President.
Died two months after leaving office
3 이상룡.jpg Yi Sang-ryong
이상룡
李相龍

(1858-1932)
5 26 September
1925
18 February
1926
Resigned due to difficulties forming the cabinet
4 Yang Gi-tak
양기탁
梁起鐸

(1871-1938)
6 18 February
1926
29 April
1926
The Revolutionary Party of Korea (고려혁명당)
Resigned
5 Yi Dong-nyeong
이동녕
李東寧

(1869-1940)
7 29 April
1926
3 May
1926
Resigned
6 Ahn Changho.jpg Ahn Changho
안창호
安昌浩

(1878-1938)
8 3 May
1926
16 May
1926
Resigned due to difficulties forming the cabinet
(5) Yi Dong-nyeong
이동녕
李東寧

(1869-1940)
9 16 May
1926
7 July
1926
Resigned
7 홍진.JPG Hong Jin
홍진
洪震/洪鎭

(1877-1946)
10 7 July
1926
14 December
1926
Resigned due to conflict within the Korean resistance. Also served as the Speaker of the Provisional Assembly
8 Kim Gu in 1949.jpg Kim Koo
김구
金九

(1876-1949)
11 14 December
1926
11 April
1927
The Constitutional amendment of 1927.
Chairpersons of the State Council Directory (국무회의 주석)
(8) Kim Gu in 1949.jpg Kim Koo
김구
金九

(1876-1949)
12 11 April
1927
18 August
1927
The first Chairman of the State Council Directory under the Constitution of 1927, where the Chairperson is the first among equals in the directory of state councillors
(5) Yi Dong-nyeong
이동녕
李東寧

(1869-1940)
13 19 August
1927
October
1930
Korean Independence Party (한국독립당)
14 October
1930
5 March
1933
President of Governance
Kim Koo
The first person to have served longer than a year since 1925
9 Song Byeong-jo
송병조
宋秉祚

(1877-1942)
15 5 March
1933
24 June
1933
President of Governance
Kim Koo
16 24 June
1933
October
1933
Also served as the Speaker of the Provisional Assembly
(5) Yi Dong-nyeong
이동녕
李東寧

(1869-1940)
17 October
1933
October
1935
Korean Independence Party (한국독립당) President of Governance
Yang Gi-tak
18 October
1935
23 October
1939
Korean National Party (한국국민당)
19 23 October
1939
13 March
1940
Chief of the Government Staff
Ryu Dong-ryeol
Died in Office
(8) Kim Gu in 1949.jpg Kim Koo
김구
金九

(1876-1949)
20 13 March
1940
8 October
1940
Korean Independence Party (한국독립당) Chief of the Government Staff
Ryu Dong-ryeol
The Constitutional Amendment of 1940
Chairpersons of the State Council (국무위원회 주석)
(8) Kim Gu in 1949.jpg Kim Koo
김구
金九

(1876-1949)
21 9 October
1940
22 April
1944
Korean Independence Party (한국독립당) Deputy Chairman
Kim Kyu-sik
22 22 April
1944
3 March
1947
Korean Liberation Army in 1940. The Declaration of War against Japan and Germany 1941. The Constitutional Amendment of 1944. Return to Korea 1945 after the end of World War II which brought liberation to Korea
(1) Rhee Syng-Man in 1956.jpg Rhee Syngman
이승만
李承晩

(1875-1965)
23 3 March
1947
September
1948
National Association for the Rapid Realisation of Korean Independence Deputy Chairman
Kim Koo
24 September
1947
15 August
1948
Previously the first President of the Provisional Government 1919-1925 before being impeached. The Speaker of the Constituent Assembly 1948. The first President of South Korea 1948-1960.

List of Presidents of the Republic of Korea

  Conservative (current: Liberty Korea Party)   Liberal (current: Democratic Party of Korea)   Military   Independent

No. Picture Name
(Birth–Death)
Term Tenure Presidential mandate Affiliation
President of the First Republic
1 Rhee Syng-Man in 1956.jpg Rhee Syng-man
I (Yi) Seungman
이승만
李承晩

(1875–1965)
1 24 July
1948
14 August
1952
1948 — 91.8% NARRKI (1948–1951)
Liberal (1951–1960)
2 15 August
1952
14 August
1956
1952 — 74.6%
3 15 August
1956
27 April
1960
1956 — 70.0%
1960 — 100.0%
The only President of the First Republic of Korea. Previously the President (1919-1925) and the Chairman of the State Council (1947-1948) of the Provisional Government. The Speaker of the Constituent Assembly (1948). The first Korean to earn a Ph.D from a University of the Western World (Princeton) in 1910. The Korean War from 1950 to 1953. Forced to resign in the April Revolution of 1960 and died in exile in Hawaii in 1965
During this interval, Minister of Foreign Affairs Heo Jeong (허정 / 許政) was Acting President.
President of the Second Republic
During this interval, Speaker of National Assembly (House of Commons) Gwak Sang-hun (곽상훈 / 郭尙勳) was Acting President.
During this interval, Prime Minister Heo Jeong (허정 / 許政) was Acting President.
During this interval, Speaker of National Assembly (Senate) Paek Nak-jun (백낙준 / 白樂濬) was Acting President.
2 Yun Bo-seon.jpg Yun Bo-seon
Yun Boseon
윤보선
尹潽善

(1897–1990)
4 12 August
1960
24 March
1962
1960 — 82.2% Democratic (1960–1962)
New Democratic (1962)
The only President of the Second Republic of Korea. Park Chung-hee took de facto control over the country through the May 16 coup in 1961.
Chairman of the Supreme Council for National Reconstruction
Park Chung-hee 1963's.png Park Chung-hee
Bak Jeonghui
박정희
朴正熙

(1917–1979)
24 March
1962
17 December
1963
Acting President Military
Park Chung-hee was de facto leader of the country after leading the May 16 coup in 1961, which effectively overthrew the Second Republic of Korea. Park also became Acting President after Yun Bo-seon's resignation in 1962.
President of the Third Republic
3 Park Chung-hee 1963's.png Park Chung-hee
Bak Jeonghui
박정희
朴正熙

(1917–1979)
5 17 December
1963
30 June
1967
1963 — 46.6% Democratic Republican
6 1 July
1967
30 June
1971
1967 — 51.4%
7 1 July
1971
26 December
1972
1971 — 53.2%
The only President of the Third Republic of Korea. Successfully industrialized South Korea and improved the economy significantly. He also proposed a range of significant policies, movements, and diplomatic pacts that contributed to constructing modern South Korea.
Presidents of the Fourth Republic
(3) Park Chung-hee 1963's.png Park Chung-hee
Bak Jeonghui
박정희
朴正熙

(1917–1979)
8 27 December
1972
26 December
1978
1972 — 99.9% Democratic Republican
9 27 December
1978
26 October
1979
1978 — 99.9%
The first President of the Fourth Republic of Korea. Assassinated by Kim Jae-kyu, the director of Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA).
During this interval, Prime Minister Choi Kyu-hah (최규하 / 崔圭夏), was Acting President.
4 Choi Kyu Hah.png Choi Kyu-hah
Choe Gyuha
최규하
崔圭夏

(1919–2006)
10 6 December
1979
16 August
1980
1979 — 96.7% Independent
The second President of the Fourth Republic of Korea. Chun Doo-hwan took de facto control over the country by leading Coup d'état of December Twelfth in 1979. Presided at the time of the Gwangju Democratization Movement in 1980.
During this interval, Acting Prime Minister Pak Choong-hoon (박충훈 / 朴忠勳), was Acting President.
5 Chun Doo-hwan.png Chun Doo-hwan
Jeon Duhwan
전두환
全斗煥

(1931–)
11 1 September
1980
25 February
1981
1980 — 99.9% Democratic Justice
The third President of the Fourth Republic of Korea.
President of the Fifth Republic
(5) Chun Doo-hwan.png Chun Doo-hwan
Jeon Duhwan
전두환
全斗煥

(1931–)
12 25 February
1981
24 February
1988
1981 — 90.2% Democratic Justice
The only President of the Fifth Republic of Korea.
Presidents of the Sixth Republic
6 Roh Tae-woo - cropped, 1989-Mar-13.jpg Roh Tae-woo
No Taeu
노태우
盧泰愚

(1933–)
13 25 February
1988
24 February
1993
1987 — 36.6%
8,282,738
Independent [Supported by Democratic Justice (1987–1990)]
Democratic Liberal (1990–1993)
The first Administration of the Sixth Republic of South Korea and the first president after the introduction of direct free and fair elections. Roh remained committed to democratic reforms, and also hosted the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul. Formerly served as a ROK Army general, an ally and friend of the previous President of the Fifth Republic Chun Doo-hwan.
7 Kim Young-sam.png Kim Young-sam
Gim Yeongsam
김영삼
金泳三

(1927–2015)
14 25 February
1993
24 February
1998
1992 — 42.0%
9,977,332
Democratic Liberal (1993–1995)
New Korea (1995–1997)
The second Administration of the Sixth Republic of South Korea. The first democratic activist to be elected president. Kim further attempted to reform the government and economy. He had former President Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo arrested on charges of corruption and treason, winning convictions against both, but later pardoned them on the advice of then President-elect Kim Dae-jung. Kim Young-sam also granted amnesty to thousands of political prisoners, and removed the criminal convictions of pro-democracy protesters who had been arrested during the Gwangju massacre in the aftermath of the Coup d'état of December Twelfth. Led an anti-corruption campaign, requiring government and military officials to publish their financial records, precipitating the resignation of several high-ranking officers and cabinet members.
8 Kim Dae-jung (Cropped).png Kim Dae-jung
Gim Daejung
김대중
金大中

(1924–2009)
15 25 February
1998
24 February
2003
1997 — 40.3%
10,326,275
NCNP (1998–2000)
New Millennium Democratic (2000–2002)
The third Administration of the Sixth Republic of South Korea. The second democratic activist President of South Korea. Kim formulated and implemented the Sunshine Policy of engagement with North Korea, and became the first South Korean president to visit North Korea in 2000, meeting North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang. Nobel Peace Prize recipient in 2000 "for his work for democracy and human rights in South Korea and in East Asia in general, and for peace and reconciliation with North Korea in particular."[1] Co-hosted the 2002 FIFA World Cup with the neighboring country of Japan.
9 Roh Moo-hyun - cropped headshot, 2004-Oct-26.jpg Roh Moo-hyun
No Muhyeon
노무현
盧武鉉

(1946–2009)
16 25 February
2003
12 March
2004
2002 — 48.91%
12,014,277
New Millennium Democratic (2003)
During this interval, Prime Minister Goh Kun (고건 / 高建) was Acting President.
14 May
2004
24 February
2008
Impeachment failed; reinstated Open Uri (Our Open) (2004–2007)
The fourth Administration of the Sixth Republic of South Korea. The second liberal/centrist President of the Sixth Republic. Roh maintained the existing Sunshine Policy of engagement towards North Korea. The first President of the Sixth Republic to be tried for impeachment. Roh's planned to the create an administrative capital, but he was set back by the Constitutional Court's ruling that the relocation of the capital was unconstitutional. Instead Roh opted for an administrative center. Served as Member of the National Assembly for Dong District, Busan (1988–1992).
10 Sebastián Piñera - Lee Myung-bak (cropped).jpg Lee Myung-bak
I (Yi) Myeongbak
이명박
李明博

(1941–)
17 25 February
2008
24 February
2013
2007 — 48.7%
11,492,389
Grand National (2008–2012)
Saenuri (New Frontier) (2012–2013)
The fifth Administration of the Sixth Republic of South Korea. Lee implemented a tougher policy with regard to North Korea, through the MB Doctrine. Reversed the U.S. beef import arrangement in 2008, triggering a series of anti–U.S. beef import protests. Attempted to scale down the development of Sejong into a hub of education, science and business rather than a national administrative center, with the support and backing of the former Prime Minister Chung Un-chan. Growing conflicts with North Korea resulted in the ROKS Cheonan sinking and bombardment of Yeonpyeong. Lee also became the first South Korean president to visit Dokdo, which further escalated tensions with Japan in 2012 before the end of his term. Served as Member of the National Assembly for Jongno District (1996–1998), Mayor of Seoul (2002–2006).
11 Park Geun-hye (8724400493) (cropped).jpg Park Geun-hye
Bak Geunhye
박근혜
朴槿惠

(1952–)
18 25 February
2013
10 March
2017
2012 — 51.6%
15,773,128
Saenuri (New Frontier) (2013–2017)
Liberty Korea (2017)
From 9 December 2016 until 10 March 2017, Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn (황교안 / 黃敎安) served as an Acting President for Park Geun-hye.
The sixth Administration of the Sixth Republic of South Korea. Park is a daughter of former President Park Chung-hee, and she was the first female President of South Korea. She was the second president to be tried for impeachment and the first president to be successfully impeached following a unanimous (8-0) vote on 10 March 2017 by the Constitutional Court to remove her from office. Served as Member of the National Assembly for Dalseong County (1998–2012), and as a party list member (2012).
During this interval, Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn (황교안 / 黃敎安) was Acting President.
12 Moon Jae-in 2017.jpg Moon Jae-in
Mun Jaein
문재인
文在寅

(1953–)
19 10 May
2017
Incumbent 2017 — 41.1%
13,423,800
Democratic
The seventh President of the Sixth Republic of South Korea. The third left-wing President of South Korea. Assumed the office immediately upon election on 10 May 2017, following the impeachment of Park Geun-hye. Served as Member of the National Assembly for Sasang (2012–2016).

Timeline

Moon Jae-in Hwang Kyo-ahn Park Geun-hye Lee Myung-bak Goh Kun Roh Moo-hyun Kim Dae-jung Kim Young-sam Roh Tae-woo Chun Doo-hwan Choi Kyu-hah Park Chung-hee Yun Posun Heo Jeong Syngman Rhee

See also

References

  1. ^ "The Nobel Peace Prize 2000". Nobel Foundation. Retrieved 2008-10-20. 
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