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Student movements, Korea

Won Young-su

Subject History
Social Movements » Collective Behaviour

Place Eastern Asia » Korea

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1900-1999

Key-Topics democracy, labor movements, radicalism, revolution, student movements

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405184649.2009.01417.x


The Korean student movement has been a leading force in anti-dictatorship and anti-imperialist struggles. It is well known for its role in the April Revolution of 1960, which toppled the corrupt anti-communist dictatorship of Rhee Syng-man. Under subsequent military regimes, students relentlessly organized anti-dictatorship protest, culminating in the Kwangju uprising of 1980 and the June uprising of 1987. Usually in underdeveloped and impoverished societies, being a student is an important means to climbing the social ladder, and the traditional worship for academia in Korea has led to preferential treatment for students. Historically, intellectuals have deemed it their duty to rise up against social and political injustice, especially against foreign aggression. Under Japanese rule, Korean students joined the struggle for national independence, and students were an important source for the socialist movement in the colonial era. After the Korean War, enjoying prestige as the only social force to fight for justice, students rose up in protest when Rhee Syng-man instigated an electoral fraud to prolong his power. This April Revolution revived the radical tradition of the student movement that had fought against Japanese imperialism, and it raised the confidence and pride of students as the sole protagonists for democracy. When a middle school student was shot dead by the police, ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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