The April Revolution, sometimes called the April 19 Revolution or
April 19 Movement, was a popular uprising in April 1960, led by labor
and student groups, which overthrew the autocratic First Republic of
South Korea under Syngman Rhee (Korean; 이승만). It led to the peaceful
resignation of Rhee and the transition to the Second Republic. The
events were touched off by the discovery of a body in Masan Harbor, that
of a student killed by a tear-gas shell in demonstrations against the
elections of March.
During the elections of 1960, Syngman Rhee
was determined to see Gibung Lee (Korean; 이기붕) elected as the
independent Vice President. He ran against Chang Myon (Korean; 장면) ,
former ambassador to the United States during the Korean War. On March
15 Gibung Lee won the elections with an abnormally wide margin. It
became clear that the vote was fraudulent and this prompted unrest among
On March 15, 1960, a protest against electoral
corruption took place in Masan. The protest, sparked by Democratic Party
members' exposure of electoral corruption, led to about a thousand
residents of Masan city gathering in front of the Democratic Party
Headquarters in Masan around 7:30 in
the evening. As the citizens faced off against the police, the city was
blacked out. The police started shooting at the people and the people
responded by throwing rocks at the police.
On April 11, Ju-yul
Kim(Korean; 김주열) body was found on the beach at Masan. Kim had been a
student at Masan Commercial High School who had disappeared during the
Masan rioting. Authorities announced that an autopsy confirmed that the
cause of his death was drowning, but many rejected this explanation.
Some protesters forced their way into the hospital. They found that
Kim's skull had been split by a tear gas grenade which had penetrated
from Kim's eyes to the back of his head. This incident became the basis
of a national movement against electoral corruption on April 19th.
a National Assembly investigating committee found that the firing into
the crowd by the police had not been intended to disperse the crowds,
but rather to kill protesters. President Rhee claimed that the Communist
Party had been behind the Masan protests trying to shift the focus.
Then on April 28, Minister of Interior and the Chief of Security
resigned taking responsibility for the Masan incident.
and students marched from Korea University to the Blue House, located
about three miles away. As they marched past other universities, their
numbers grew. Finally, arriving at the Presidential Mansion, the number
of the students was larger than the soldiers. Rather than be
overwhelmed, soldiers fired on the demonstrators who were calling for
Rhees resignation. The soldiers killed 125 students before laying down
their weapons. April 19 Movement refers to the demonstrations that
brought down the South Korean President Syngman Rhee. At its aftermath,
President Rhee stepped down from power and escaped to Hawaii, where he
died five years later. The Prime Minister Gibung Lee committed suicide
along with his family.