South Korean presidential election, 1948

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South Korean presidential election, 1948

20 July 1948 1952 →
  Rhee Syng-Man in 1956.jpg Kim Gu in 1949.jpg
Nominee Syngman Rhee Kim Koo
Electoral vote 180 13
Percentage 91.8% 6.7%

Elected President

Syngman Rhee

Presidential elections were held in South Korea for the first time on 20 July 1948, following the Constitutional Assembly elections earlier that year. The elections were indirect, with the president elected by the Assembly. Syngman Rhee was elected with 180 votes out of 196 and was to oversee the transfer of power from the United States Army Military Government in Korea.[1]

An important role was played in the run-up to the election by the dispute between Rhee and candidate Kim Koo over the issue of holding separate elections in the South. Kim rejected the notion of separate elections, and split from the National Alliance for the Rapid Realization of Korean Independence to form the Korea Independence Party.[2] 13 members cast their votes for Kim. In the event, Kim's split allowed Rhee to consolidate power over NARRKI and, in 1951, form the Liberal Party, enabling his rule over South Korea until the April Revolution in 1960.[2]



Even though Kim Koo did not send his approvals for the new South Korean government and insisted that the lawmakers not cast votes for him, 13 of the 196 lawmakers who voted voted for Kim Koo. The election, however, ended as a landslide victory of the only candidate that actively sought the presidency, Rhee Syng-man. 1 vote was invalidated, as it was cast for independence activist Seo Jae-pil, who at the time was a US citizen.

Candidate Party Votes %
Syngman Rhee National Association for the Rapid Realisation of Korean Independence 180 91.8
Kim Koo Korea Independence Party 13 6.7
An Se-hong 2 1.0
Seo Jae-pil 1 0.5
Total 196 100
Registered voters/turnout 200 98.0


Yi Si-yeong, under the endorsement of Rhee, won, but only at the second round of voting after failing to win 2/3 of the votes at the first round.

Candidate Party First round Second round
Votes % Votes %
Yi Si-yeong National Association for the Rapid Realisation of Korean Independence 113 57.4 133 67.9
Kim Koo Korea Independence Party 65 33.0 62 31.6
Cho Man-sik Korean Democratic Party 10 5.1
Oh Se-chang Independent 5 2.5
Chang Taek-sang 3 1.5
Seo Sang-in Independent 1 0.5
Yi Gu-su Independent 1 0.5
Invalid/blank votes 0 1
Total 197 100 197 100
Registered voters/turnout 200 98.5 200 98.5


  1. ^ Savada, A. M. (1997) South Korea: A Country Study. DIANE Publishing. p. 33.
  2. ^ a b Fukui, H. (1985) Political parties of Asia and the Pacific, Vol. 1. Greenwood Press. p. 674.