April 20, 2023
SEOUL – President Yoon Suk Yeol said Wednesday his administration will work to realize the ideals of liberal democracy, at an annual ceremony marking the April 19 Revolution, a movement against election fraud that brought down South Korea’s first president, Syngman Rhee, in 1960.
“The spirit of the revolution is written into our Constitution. That we cannot overlook freedoms of any single individual is what we must uphold as we run government. I will personally make sure we internalize that commitment in everyday life,” Yoon said in an address on the revolution’s 63rd anniversary.
A political decision-making process that protects freedoms is liberal democracy, but the institution is facing growing challenges such as “disinformation and fake news,” Yoon added, saying autocracy is a “fake democracy” even if the country bears the name of democracy.
“We must not be fooled by such lies and disguise,” he said. “The freedom and democracy that the democratic fighters had fought for with blood should not be ridiculed by frauds.”
For the first time as the South Korean leader, Yoon paid tribute at a memorial altar with photos of the deceased. The visit was to affirm Yoon’s commitment to honoring their sacrifices, a pledge made a year ago, according to Yoon’s office. Yoon, who took office in May last year, attended the event as president-elect at the time.
The government, Yoon’s office added, will launch a fact-finding inquiry to recognize more of those who had taken part in the movement.
In late February 1960, voter fraud the Rhee government organized to make Rhee’s ally as vice president triggered a string of protests initially led by high school students. The pro-democracy uprising, which peaked on April 19, 1960, forced Rhee to step down a week later. The following month, Rhee defected to Hawaii, the US, where he had since lived in exile until his death in 1965.
Rhee had repeatedly sought to return to Korea since defection, requests his successors denied. Rhee’s ally, who was elected as vice president in the election fraud, and his family members all took their lives nine days after the revolution.