UNTIL 1988, AUTOCRATS or military dictators usually governed South Korea. The left-oriented politicians were often ignored, imprisoned, or politically impotent. In 1988, Chun Doo Hwan, President of the Republic of Korea, retired as he had promised he would in 1980.

In the years of his administration, there were thousands of student protests across the country. The student demonstrations were so numerous and so frequent that many believe the Korean police became the most efficient in the world at riot control. Even while the Korean economy prospered enormously during the latter half of the 20th century, protests against the authoritarianism of the regime continued to the point of including numerous middle-class women.

In 1988, the year of the Seoul Olympic Games, Roh Taewoo won election to the ...

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