I recently posted a video by Seoul-based games company ‘Studio Shelter‘. The video is a ‘faux-demo’ for a video game which tells the recent history of South Korea. A day after it was posted I got a response from the guys at Kimchibytes.com asking for a quick run-down of what was actually going on, so I’ve given it a go.
The video begins at the end of the Japanese Annexation of Korea (1910-1945).
Stage 1: 1945-1979
We see Le Seung-man, Korea’s first President (they had Kings before the Japanese took over). He lasted two terms but was forced to resign after public (mostly student) protests of his ‘disputed’ third term victory, the sign the people hold very loosely translates to “The election was rigged and is invalid”.
The man in the tank is Takaki Masao, more commonly known as Park Chung-hee, Korea’s third President (he was born under Japanese occupation so has a traditional Japanese name). The song playing in the background is known as 새마을운동 (Sae-ma-ul un-dong- ‘New Commuity Movement‘). He came to power after successfully staging a coup d’état against President Yun Bo-seon and ruled as a dictator for 18 years. His legacy is somewhat cloudy: he is known as a brutal leader but he was instrumental in taking Korea forward to where they are today. He was assassinated in 1979 by his chief of security.
Stage 2: 1979-1987
The two men in the tank are Chun do-hwan, the fifth President of South Korea, known as ‘Mr. Manwon’ (man won (만원) is Korean money, approximately $10 – Chun Doo-hwan famously stated he had only 29만원 in the bank, around $290, after stealing millions from the country) he also came to power after a successful coup d’état. The other gentleman is Roh Tae-woo, Chun do-hwan’s ‘Major General’ who succeeded him as South Korea’s sixth President. Chun do-hwan is also seen as a dictator but somewhat milder than Park Chung-hee. The banners the protesters are waving translate to “The constitution has been Violated” and “Overthrow the Dictatorship”
Stage 3: 1987-2001
The two headstones you can see in the background read Kim Dae Jung, South Korea’s eighth President, a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize and Korea’s first liberal leader, and Roh Mu-hyun, his successor. These Presidents are widely praised as peaceful and just.
Stage 4: 2001-2012
The Protesters are back with Lee Myung-bak (his name reads ‘2MB’ because ‘Lee’ in Korean (이) is the same word used for the number ‘2’, along with his initials M.B), the tenth President with the lofty distinction of being famous for looking like a rat. He wasn’t the most popular President but nothing like the old days. Before he was President he was the CEO of Hyundai Engineering, hence the tractor and crates. After he is defeated by a duck we see Mr. Masao back with a little baby. The baby is Park Geun-hye, Park Chung-hee’s daughter, the President elect of South Korea.
The symbol at the end is a stamp. When Koreans vote in an election, rather that writing an X or punching a hole, they must stamp over the name of who they want elected.
I am by no means an expert at this and what I have written is a very basic overview of a vast amount of modern history so if I have made any mistakes forgive me and let me know.
Thanks to the wife for helping me.