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Choi Kyu-hah

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Choi Kyu-hah
Official portrait, 1979
4th President of South Korea
In office
October 26, 1979 – August 16, 1980
Acting to December 6, 1979
Prime Minister
Preceded byPark Chung Hee
Succeeded byChun Doo-hwan
10th Prime Minister of South Korea
In office
December 18, 1975 – December 12, 1979
PresidentPark Chung Hee
Preceded byKim Jong-pil
Succeeded byShin Hyun-hwak
Personal details
Born(1919-07-16)July 16, 1919
Genshū-men, Genshū-gun, Kōgen-dō, Korea, Empire of Japan
DiedOctober 22, 2006(2006-10-22) (aged 87)
Mapo, Seoul, South Korea
Resting placeDaejeon National Cemetery
NationalitySouth Korean
Political partyIndependent
(m. 1935)
Alma materTokyo Higher Normal School
Korean name
Revised RomanizationChoe Gyu(-)ha
McCune–ReischauerCh'oe Kyuha
Art name
Revised RomanizationHyeonseok
Courtesy name
Revised RomanizationSeo(-)ok

Choi Kyu-hah (Korean최규하; Hanja崔圭夏; IPA: [tɕʰø ɡjuha, - kjuha]; July 16, 1919 – October 22, 2006), also spelled Choi Kyu-ha or Choi Gyu-ha, was a South Korean politician who served as the fourth President of South Korea from 1979 to 1980.

Early life[edit]

Choi was born in Wonju-myeon, Wonju, Kōgen-dō, Korea, Empire of Japan (now in Gangwon Province, South Korea). Choi was born into a yangban (upper class) family; his grandfather had been a scholar at the Sungkyunkwan. During this period, Choi used the Japanese name Umehara Keiichi (梅原圭一).

After graduating from Kyunggi High School and the Tokyo Higher Normal School [ja] (today Tokyo University of Education [ja]) with diplomas in English language and literature, Choi briefly worked as a teacher at the Taikyū Public Junior High School, before moving to Manchukuo for studies at the Taidō Academy [ja]. Choi graduated in 1943; two years later he became a professor at the Keijō Normal School.

Political career[edit]

Choi served as Ambassador to Malaysia from 1964 to 1967, foreign minister from 1967 to 1971; and as prime minister from 1975 to 1979.

After the assassination of Park Chung Hee in 1979, Choi became acting president; the prime minister stood next in line for the presidency under Article 48 of the Yushin Constitution. Due to the unrest resulting from Park's authoritarian rule, Choi promised democratic elections, as under Park elections had been widely seen as rigged. Choi also promised a new constitution to replace the highly authoritarian Yushin Constitution. Choi was the sole candidate in an election on 6 December for the balance of Park's term, becoming the country's fourth president.

Coup and resignation[edit]

In December 1979, Major General Chun Doo-hwan and close allies within the military staged a coup d'état against Choi's government. They quickly removed the army chief of staff and virtually controlled the government by early 1980.

In April 1980, due to increasing pressure from Chun and other politicians, Choi appointed Chun head of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency. In May, Chun declared martial law and dropped all pretense of civilian government, becoming the de facto ruler of the country. By then, student protests were escalating in Seoul and Gwangju. The protests in Gwangju resulted in the Gwangju uprising in which about 987 civilians were killed within a five-day period by Chun's military.

Choi was forced to resign soon after the uprising. Prime Minister Park Chung-hoon became acting president, until Chun's election as President on September 1, 1980.

Later life[edit]

After his resignation, Choi lived quietly out of the public eye and died on October 22, 2006.[1] His funeral was held on October 26, 2006, and was attended by President Roh Moo-hyun, first lady Kwon Yang-sook, Prime Minister Han Myeong-sook, former presidents Chun Doo-hwan, Kim Young-sam and Kim Dae-jung. Choi was buried in Daejeon National Cemetery.[2]

In Popular Culture[edit]

The 2023 South Korean movie 12.12: The Day portrays President Choi under the pseudonym "Choi Han-gyu".[3]


  1. ^ "Obituary: Choi Kyu Hah, 87, led S. Korea in turbulent era". The New York Times. October 22, 2006. Retrieved January 17, 2022.
  2. ^ "Daejeon National Cemetery Timeline". Daejeon National Cemetery. Retrieved 28 September 2014.
  3. ^ LIM, JEONG-WON (2023). "2023.11.23 Now Playing". Korea Joongang Daily. Retrieved 5 December 2023.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by President of South Korea
October 26, 1979–August 16, 1980
Succeeded by
Preceded by Prime Minister of South Korea
December 18, 1975–October 26, 1979
Succeeded by