South Korea is not, and probably has never been, a democracy. Prior to the 20th century Koreans would take their wares to an island off the coast and trade with foreigners. Back then, Korea was considered the little brother of China. It was a strange situation in which the Korean ambassador to China could go anywhere in China. However the Chinese ambassador to Korea, a hermit kingdom, would go through the streets with the windows closed on his jiao zi.
Korea had always been run by the yang ban, the aristocracy that controlled 86% of the land in Korea. Japan took over Korea in the early part of the 20th century. The local power was in the hands of the yang ban, who cooperated with the Japanese. The richest yang ban was placed by Hirohito in the Japanese House of Lords. He committed suicide at the end of World War II.
The only patriot fighting the Japanese was Kim Il Sung, the grandfather of North Korea's present dictator. Americans were frightened of communism of any type. The House un-American Activities Committee was running a pre-Joe McCarthy witch-hunt in America. Americans decided that the yang ban, who had been working with the Japanese, could be counted on not to be communist. Syngman Rhee, who had been living in the United States during the war, was brought in to be a front man for the yang ban. They had no interest in freedom or democracy but the Americans considered them safe.
But the power of the yangban didn't last forever. Large corporations like Samsung were called Chaebol and the ruling family members were also called Chaebol. Slowly but surely they began to decide what happened in South Korea. In fact, one chaebol showed his power by divorcing Korea's most popular actress and never allowing her to see her children. There was a brutality to their power which also accompanied bribes of government officials to create the South Korea we see today. At the moment the president has been thrown out and the head of Samsung indicted for bribing her. Money and social position decide everything in Korea, where chaebol act like Marie Antoinette or George III.
Since America created this fictitious democracy they have much to answer for. There are a lot of things in the world more frightening than communism. One of those things is a country that pretends to be a democracy, but where the rich control everything.