Among the presidents and prime ministers of the Republic of Korea, president Yun Po-son and prime minister Chang Myon are the least likely to remain etched in people's memory. That is because their Second Republic was an unfinished experiment in government, existing under a new and unheard-of political system for an instant only to vanish into oblivion.
When Syngman Rhee fled into exile in Hawaii on May 29, 1960, the ruling Liberal Party and the presidential system collapsed with him. People's fear of the presidential system led to the drafting of a constitutional amendment introducing the parliamentary system. The bill was passed by the National Assembly on June 15.
The Democratic Party scored a landslide victory in the general election on July 29. As a result, the fifth National Assembly was launched as a bicameral parliament. Yun Po-son was elected as figurehead president, and Chang Myon became prime minister with substantial authority.
The Second Republic, which was inaugurated on Aug. 13, faced two tasks -- democratization and industrialization. The ruling DP proclaimed basic policy guidelines to consolidate anti-communism and give top priority to economic development. A master plan for economic and land development was formulated during this period.
But social chaos continued. The Democratic Party's "old faction" led by Yun Po-son was always confronted with the "new faction" led by Chang Myon. Among the party's junior members, Kim Young-sam belonged to the "old faction" and Kim Dae-jung to the "new faction." The two Kims became presidents themselves much later. In November, the "old faction" split off from the DP and founded an opposition party, the New Democratic Party.
Various protests and student groups were launched following the April 19, 1960 student movement and threatened the government system. Even elementary schoolchildren and police officers staged rallies. The student movement became violent, the social movement became increasingly ideologically-motivated, and even a radical reunification proposal was put forth.
Were all these chaotic events necessary procedures we had to go through in the process of becoming a mature democracy? The more urgent question was whether the Chang Myon Cabinet really had the will and ability to cope with the situation.
But time was not on their side. In the early morning on May 16, 1961, soldiers led by Park Chung-hee staged a coup, and Chang had to hide in a Catholic convent. He fled so hurriedly that he did not have time to pick up the broken glasses he had dropped on the floor. This was the end to a short experiment in parliamentary democracy.