South Korean presidential election, March 1960

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South Korean presidential election, March 1960

← 1956 15 March 1960 August 1960 →
  Rhee Syng-Man in 1956.jpg
Nominee Syngman Rhee
Party Liberal
Popular vote 9,633,376
Percentage 100%

President before election

Syngman Rhee

Elected President

Syngman Rhee

Republic of Korea vice-presidential election, March 1960

← 1956 15 March 1960
  Lee gi bung.png John Myun.jpg
Candidate Lee Ki Poong Chang Myon
Party Liberal Democratic Party
Popular vote 8,337,059 1,843,758
Percentage 79.2% 17.5%

Vice-President before election

Chang Myon
Democratic Party

Elected Vice-President

Lee Ki-bung

Presidential elections were held in South Korea on 15 March 1960.[1] Shortly after winning reelection to a third term in 1956, Rhee had the legislature pass a constitutional amendment exempting the incumbent president—himself—from the three-term limit. He then immediately announced his candidacy for a fourth term.

After the death of Democratic Party opponent Cho Pyong-ok, Rhee was left as the only candidate, and was re-elected unopposed.[2] Voter turnout was 97.0%.[3] With the lack of a meaningful contest in the presidential race, popular focus shifted to the vice-presidential contest where Rhee's Liberal Party candidate Lee Ki-bung competed against Chang Myon. The elections were heavily rigged in Lee's favor, and widespread allegations of corruption and manipulation of the results sparked protests which spiralled into the April Revolution, causing the annulment of the election, the resignation and exile of Rhee, and the collapse of the First Republic.



Popular hopes of unseating Rhee were frustrated by the death of his opponent Cho Pyong-ok several weeks before the election, leaving Rhee to be elected without opposition.[4]

Candidate Party Votes %
Syngman Rhee Liberal Party 9,633,376 100
Invalid/blank votes 1,228,896
Total 10,862,272 100
Registered voters/turnout 11,196,490 97.0
Source: Nohlen et al.


With no competition for Rhee in the presidential elections of 1960 after the death of his opponent, the simultaneous vice-presidential elections became the main focus of attention. Opposition to Rhee was concentrated around the incumbent Democratic Party candidate, Chang Myon, who had been elected in 1956.[2] Official results after the election showed a large victory for the Liberal candidate, Lee Ki Poong, with a margin of almost 80% to Chang's 17.5%, entirely against popular expectations, and it was obvious that the results had been extensively manipulated: Han goes so far as to say that "the election results were completely fabricated by police headquarters and the ministry of internal affairs".[2]

The Democratic Party rejected the result and on the same day, protests began in Masan against the fabrication of the election results. The discovery of the mutilated body of a sixteen-year-old boy who had participated in these protests in early April caused a wave of further protest, and Rhee's obdurate attitude led to the intensification of unrest into the April Revolution,[5] though Rhee forced Lee to withdraw from active politics.[6] The results of the elections were nullified after the Revolution's triumph later in the year, though Chang himself resigned on April 23.[7]

Candidate Party Votes %
Lee Ki Poong Liberal Party 8,337,059 79.2
Chang Myon Democratic Party 1,843,758 17.5
Kim Jun-yeon Unification Party 249,095 2.4
Im Yeong-shin National Association 97,533 0.9
Total 10,527,445 100


  1. ^ Dieter Nohlen, Florian Grotz & Christof Hartmann (2001) Elections in Asia: A data handbook, Volume II, p420 ISBN 0-19-924959-8
  2. ^ a b c Han, S-J. (1974) The Failure of Democracy in South Korea. University of California Press, p. 28.
  3. ^ Nohlen et al., p464
  4. ^ Lie, J. (2000) Han Unbound: The Political Economy of South Korea. Stanford University Press, p. 36.
  5. ^ Han, p. 29.
  6. ^ Han, p. 30.
  7. ^ Reeve, W. D. (1979) The Republic of Korea: A Political and Economic Study. Greenwood Press, p.50.
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