Yun Posun

Illustration by Yaz Serrano

By Ara Kim

Born on 26 August 1897 in South Korea, Yun Posun came from a family of Korean independence activists.

Inspired by the 1911 Chinese Revolution, Yun moved to Shanghai in 1917, where he fought for Korean independence from Japanese occupation. There, he met Shin Gyu-shik, an independence activist, who encouraged Yun to travel to Britain and learn how to strengthen the independence movement by studying British parliamentary democracy. Yun chose to study Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh, as he believed the subject provided insights into human behaviour and the basis of political ideologies, matriculating in 1927 and graduating in 1930. During his studies, he was deeply influenced by Professor Vere Gordon Childe, a Marxist archaeologist.

Once the Rhee Syngman government of South Korea terminated after the April 19 Revolution in 1960, the Democratic Party came into power. Yun Posun, who was the party’s leader, was elected President of South Korea in 1960.

Even after his forced resignation by a coup, he fought the military government by leading and forming several opposition parties. Yun also opposed the Constitution of the Fourth Republic (or Yusin Constitution), after Park Chung-Hee’s third-term re-election, which effectively made him dictator. At the 13th Presidential Election in 1987, he supported the ruling party candidate Roh Tae-woo, receiving criticisms that he was supporting Hanahoe, a private group of military officers ruled by Roh Tae-woo, despite being part of the democratic movement. In 18 July 1990, Yun died of old age. Today, Yun is criticised for being a fragile, changeable leader in the world of elite politics, but he is nevertheless praised for his contributions to the democratisation of South Korea.

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