National Museum Of Korean Contemporary History

the National Museum of Korean Comtemporary History is closed on Chuseok (Monday, September 24th)

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Permanent Exhibition

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Exhibition Hall 2 Foundation of the Republic of Korea(1948 ~ 1961)

Foundation of the Republic of Korea' covers the period of the foundation of the Republic of Korea and the Korean War.

The exhibit is comprised of the following sections: ‘Establishment of the Republic of Korea’s Government,’ ‘The Korean War and Postwar Recovery,’ and ‘Building the Foundation of a Nation-State.’ Sweat and Tears of the people who built the foundation of the national development without losing hope even in the ruins of the Korean War
‘Foundation of the Republic of Korea’ features the development and significance of the establishment of the ROK government, the development process and brutal reality of the Korean War, and the process to build the postwar nation from the ruins of the Korean War. In addition, it covers the significance of the April 19 Revolution, which was the foundation of the democratization movement that overthrew the dictatorship with the power of citizens.

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    In the international order of the Cold War confronting the Free World and Communism after World War II, South Korea and North Korea came to have different systems. It was also ultimately decided that a general election would be held only in the South. The general election on May 10, 1948 was the first democratic election held in Korea wherein all men and women over 21 years old were given the right to a direct, equal, confidential, and free vote.
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    The first National Assembly elected by the general election held on May 10, enacted and promulgated the Constitution, and elected the president and vice-president. The Government of the Republic of Korea was finally established on August 15, 1948. In December of the same year, the UN recognized the South Korean government as a ‘legitimate government that was established in a region where an election was able to be observed’.
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    After the establishment of the government in 1948, Korea was in the midst of building the nation’s foundation. Then on June 25, 1950, the Korean War broke out. Started with North Korea’s surprise attack on June 25, 1950, the Korean War came to a head along with the participation of UN forces, however, suffered by large-scale Chinese forces. Later, the War reached a deadlock across the front, located around the 38th Parallel, bringing the three-year war to a ceasefire in July 1953.
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    The Meredith Victory is well-known as the ship carrying many refugees during the evacuation of Heungnam in 1950.
    Instead of military supplies, the ship carried over 14,000 refugees for three days to Jangseungpo Port in Geojedo Island. Despite sub-zero temperatures and a lack of food, there was not a single death on board and in fact, five new lives came into the world on the ship. The Meredith Victory made it into the Guinness World Records in 2004 as the largest humanitarian rescue operation by a single ship.
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    After the end of the Korean War, numerous Koreans had very difficult living conditions. Especially in Seoul, where many houses were destroyed by heavy bombardment during the war, many people defected from the North after the war and farmers came to Seoul causing a severe a shortage of houses. New migrants gathered around hills or streams, building shacks with planks and tents, and formed giant shanty towns. The residents of the shanty towns survived the difficult life with their strong will and vitality.
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    After the end of the Korean War, Korea signed a ROK-US mutual defense treaty with the United States.
    Under this treaty, two US army divisions were deployed between Seoul and the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) to restrain a North Korean invasion of the South. Moreover, the number of ROK armed forces has increased to 720,000 from 550,000 at the time of the armistice, and the education and training programs for commissioned officers have been reinforced.
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    Since its establishment, the Republic of Korea created a compulsory elementary education system as the basis of the nation’s education.
    By the late 1950s, 96% of school-aged children were enrolled in elementary schools, and different schools were newly built and expanded.
    The human capital accumulated in the 1950s came to serve as the foundation for Korea’s industrialization and democratization in the 1960s.
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    Korean popular culture after the Korean War often expressed the tragedy of war and the pain of separation, or despair and self-deprecation in tough living conditions. Popular songs expressing the pain of the loss of hometowns and separation, and the misery of the war gained popularity. Both Korean and foreign movies depicting the reality of Korea increasingly became popular in theaters. Many cultural magazines such as Sasanggye (the Realms of Ideas) were mainly read by intellectuals.
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    The Sibal (lit. ‘start’) Car refers to the first motor vehicle made in Korea in August 1955. After the war, recycling of parts from destroyed vehicles to make a car was actively being carried out. Choi Mu-seong and his two brothers produced the Sibal Car by combining newly cut domestic parts with US military jeep accessories. The Sibal Car was awarded the Presidential Prize as the best domestic product at the Industrial Exhibition in October 1955. Sibal is also well-known as a taxi used at that time.
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    A corrupt presidential election on March 15, 1960, sparked the people’s fury, resulting in a nation-wide demonstration. In the process, there was bloodshed, in which about 180 people were killed by the police firing. As students and citizens continued demonstrations, President Syngman Rhee resigned. The April 19 Revolution, in which people strictly judged the corruption and dictatorship of the regime, became the cornerstone of democratization in Korea.