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North and South each declared independence as separate states in 1948, with Kim Il-Sung establishing a communist regime with the support of Soviet Union in the north, and Syngman Rhee establishing a capitalist regime with the support of the United States in the south.
Rapid modernization stirred by the Second Industrial Revolution created tension between China and Japan as they felt the pressures of Western expansionism, each wanting to extend their influence over Korea.
The Japanese exercised rule of the peninsula until their defeat in World War II in 1945.
Japan was forced to surrender the territory and the Allied Powers divided the nation at the 38th Parallel, with the Soviet Union occupying the northern half and the United States occupying the southern half.
Today, South Korea has been recognized as an industrialized, developed economy with some of the world's leading high technology corporations such as Samsung and LG.
The downsides of South Korea's economical growth, however, included heavy censorship, authoritarian governments (i.e, the 2nd Republic led by former military leader Park Chung-Hee, which would last from 1962 to Park's murder in 1979) and multiple human rights violations (illegal detentions, torture, straight-up murder, etc., like the infamous Gwangju Massacre from 1980) Demands for greater freedom of press and human rights fomented to nationwide demonstrations that led to democratic elections in 1987, just prior to the South Korean capital of Seoul hosting the 1988 Summer Olympic Games.