Syngman Rhee

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Syngman Rhee or Yi Seungman (March 26, 1875 – July 19, 1965; Korean pronunciation: [i sɯŋman]) was the first president of South Korea. His presidency, from August 1948 to April 1960, remains controversial, affected by Cold War tensions on the Korean peninsula and elsewhere. Rhee was regarded as an anti-Communist and a strongman, and led South Korea through the Korean War. His presidency ended in resignation following popular protests against a disputed election. He died in exile in Hawaii.


Early life

Syngman Rhee was born in Hwanghae Province to Yi Gyeong-seon, a royal aristocrat. By birth, Rhee was a member of a royal cadet branch of the House of Yi, the House of Grand Prince Royal Yangnyeong.[3][4][5] He attended Pai Chai Hak Dang, but he soon became active in Korea's struggle against Japanese hegemony. He was arrested in 1897 for demonstrating against the Japanese monarchy, being subsequently released in 1904 and going to the United States. He obtained several degrees (including a B.A. from George Washington University, Harvard University, and a Ph.D. from Princeton University) and became so Westernized that he began writing his name in the Western manner, with the personal name preceding the family name.

In 1910, he returned to Korea, which had by this time been annexed by Japan. His political activism attracted unwelcome attention from the occupying army. In 1919, all of the major pro-independence factions formed the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea in Shanghai. Rhee was elected the president, a post he held for six years. In 1925 he was removed from office following his impeachment by the Provisional Assembly for misuse of his authority— an event that would foreshadow his later political career.

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