MUSEUM DAY at the National Museum of Korean Contemporary History - "Democracy Achieved"

MUSEUM DAY at the National Museum of Korean Contemporary History [대한민국역사박물관]



**** RAS Visit to the Special Exhibition Hall ****

Date: Wednesday, July 12, 2017 at 7PM (meet the group in the building lobby 10 minutes before the hour)

Venue: 3rd Floor, National Museum of Korean Contemporary History



The Museum is between Gyeongbokgung and the U.S. Embassy, and across the street from Sejong Arts Center (by Gwanghwamun). For directions and transportation information, click here




Special Exhibition Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of Korea’s Democratization Movement

Democracy Achieved: The Power of People

Date: June 26 – Sept 3, 2017

It was during the Great National March of Peace in Busan on June 26, 1987. The police began to fire tear gas canisters to disperse the crowd, and one young protestor shouted out, “Don’t fire tear gas! Overthrow the dictator!” Carrying a large Korean flag in front, the crowd rushed toward the police. Now thirty years have passed, and the National Museum of Korean Contemporary History has marked the event with a special exhibition entitled Democracy Achieved: The Power of People.  

Korea’s past three decades have been reconfigured around the key elements in the democratization process and the main values of democracy. The special exhibition is organized into four sections: Establishment, Solidification, Embracement, and Dreams.





The democratization process from 1987 has been restructured into two points of view: resistance and compromise. The struggle for democracy by students and members of the opposition parties as well as the movement for a Constitutional amendment to allow direct Presidential elections steadily gained momentum during the mid-1980s. However, in April 1987, the Chun Doo-hwan government announced its intention to suspend all Constitutional debate and hand over power to the next president under existing law. Then news came out about the government’s attempts to minimize and whitewash the torture death of a university student protester named Park Jong-cheol. These developments incited great public anger, and anti-government demonstrations erupted nationwide.

A nationwide rally was scheduled for June 10 to denounce the cover-up of Park Jong-cheol’s death and the government’s refusal to amend the Constitution. The day before, however, a student protester named Lee Han-yeol was put in a coma after being struck in the head by a tear gas canister fragment. (He died on July 5.) This stirred public sentiment further, and more people took to the streets. The Great National March of Peace was organized in thirty-seven locations, with more than a million protestors coming out to demand the democratization of the Korean government. Eventually the ruling and opposition parties came to an agreement and the people voted for a Constitutional amendment, which took place in October 1987. This event cemented the victory for the people after decades of struggle for democracy, but it also marked a new beginning for the country.       




This section presents three essential elements for the practice and consolidation of the democratic process that was achieved starting from 1987. These include (1) the constitutional government, which serves as the democratic system; (2) the citizens, who are the principal agents in the democratic process; and (3) the foundations, both traditional and socio-economic, upon which democracy can advance. The peaceful transfer of political power at least twice is a minimal standard for solidifying procedural democracy. Moreover, the peaceful impeachment of the President that took place last winter is evidence that the rule of law is functioning properly in Korean society.

Koreans initiated a tradition of democratic republican government with the establishment of the Provisional Government in Shanghai during the Japanese Colonial period. They showed a passion for democracy during the student-led revolution that ousted President Rhee Syngman in April 1960 and the democratic uprising against the Chun doo-hwan government in May 1980. These were prerequisites for democracy to firmly take root in Korea, and the socio-economic advancements and improvements in education made it all possible.




This section looks at how far human rights, equality and freedom have progressed in Korean society, and examines those areas where these the core values of democracy are still lacking. Activities by Korea’s National Human Rights Commission and other such organizations promote basic human rights, while improvements in the social welfare system help to ensure individuals have the right to pursue happiness. Workers’ rights as well as the rights of young children and adolescents are now issues being addressed. Advancements have been made in terms of social equality, too, as Korean law guarantees equal opportunity, prohibits discrimination against minorities, and supports economic democratization. When it comes to freedom, there is personal freedom, freedom of speech and freedom to engage in economic activity.  



This is the section that deals with the degree to which democracy has become internalized in Koreans’ everyday lives as well as the path democracy must take going forward. Democracy does not exist solely in the macroscopic sphere of government systems and the like. We must also take an honest look at how hard we are working as individuals to practice democratic values in the family, at work and in schools. Visitors here have a chance to reflect on what must be done for democracy to continue advancing.   



This special exhibition was designed to provide Koreans with the opportunity to reflect on the process of their ongoing and actual democratic development as well as to consider what the ideal democracy might be for the Korean people. It runs from Monday, June 26 through Sunday, September 3 on the third floor of the National Museum of Korean Contemporary History.   




The Museum is between Gyeongbokgung and the U.S. Embassy, and across the street from Sejong Arts Center (by Gwanghwamun). For directions and transportation information, click here


Contact Us

Royal Asiatic Society Korea Branch
Room 611, Korean Christian Building, Daehak-ro 19 (Yeonji-dong), Jongno-gu, Seoul 03129
[03129] 서울시 종로구 대학로 19 (연지동) 한국기독교회관 611호

Office is open Monday through Friday from 10 to 5 but we are short staffed and there are meetings elsewhere often: please call or email before your visit.
Phone (02) 763-9483 FAX (02) 766-3796
Email -

Find Us On...


Subscribe to Syndicate