South Korea under Military Rule: Friendly Tyrant?

  • Edward A. Olsen


Through much of its history, Korea has been an authoritarian client-state dwelling in China’s shadow. In accordance with that tradition, for most of the postwar era the Korean peninsula has been notable for the authoritarianism of its two regimes. In both Seoul and Pyongyang, stern — and often harsh — authoritarianism has been the norm. Although there is no moral equivalence between South Korea’s military-backed authoritarianism and the police state in the North, the close bonds between the United States and the Republic of Korea (ROK) have earned it the label Friendly Tyrant.


Foreign Policy Democratic Liberal Party Reagan Administration Military Rule Client State 
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  1. 2.
    See Hur Wha-pyung, “The Military’s Role in South Korean Politics,” in Far Eastern Economic Review, November 19, 1987, pp. 54–55.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    The best survey of that affair is Robert Boettcher, Gifts of Deceit: Sun Myung Moon, Tongsun Park, and the Korean Scandal (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1980.)Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    See the following conservative analyses which recommend withdrawing U.S. forces from Korea: Hoover Institution senior fellow, Melvyn Krauss, How NATO Weakens The West (New York: Simon and Shuster, 1986), chapter 10;Google Scholar
  4. CATO Institute senior fellow, Doug Bandow, “Korea: The Case for Disengagement,” Policy Analysis, December 8, 1987;Google Scholar
  5. Bandow, “Leaving Korea,” Foreign Policy, Winter 1989–90.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Foreign Policy Research Institute 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Edward A. Olsen

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