Park Chung-hee

Leader of South Korea from 1961 to 1979

Park Chung-hee (September 30, 1917 – October 26, 1979) was the dictator of South Korea from 1961 until he was assassinated in 1979. He was named one of the top 100 Asians of the Century by Time Magazine (1999). He has been severely criticized for his government's brutality, especially after 1971. Nevertheless, he has a positive image in South Korea today. A pen name was Jungsu.

Park Chung-hee
3rd President of South Korea
In office
24 March 1962 – 26 October 1979
Acting to 17 December 1963
Prime MinisterChoi Tu-son
Chung Il-kwon
Paik Too-chin
Kim Jong-pil
Choi Kyu-hah
Preceded byYun Posun
Succeeded byChoi Kyu-hah
Chairman of the Supreme Council for National Reconstruction
In office
3 July 1961 – 17 December 1963
Preceded byChang Do-yong
Succeeded byPosition abolished
Deputy Chairman of the Supreme Council for National Reconstruction
In office
16 May 1961 – 2 July 1961
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byPosition abolished
Personal details
Born(1917-09-30)30 September 1917
Gumi, North Gyeongsang, Japanese Korea (now South Korea)
Died26 October 1979(1979-10-26) (aged 62)
Jongno, Seoul, Fourth Republic of Korea
Cause of deathAssassination by firearm
Resting placeSeoul National Cemetery
Political partyDemocratic Republican
Other political
Workers' Party of South Korea (1946–1948)[1]
Kim ho-nam
(m. 1936; div. 1950)

Yuk Young-soo
(m. 1950; died 1974)
ChildrenPark Jae-ok
Park Geun-hye
Park Geun-ryoung
Park Ji-man
Alma materImperial Japanese Army Academy
Korea Military Academy
Manchukuo Army Military Academy
Military service
Allegiance Manchukuo
 South Korea
Branch/service Manchukuo Imperial Army (1944–1945)
 Republic of Korea Army (1945–1963)
Years of service1944–1963
Battles/warsSecond Sino-Japanese War
World War II
Korean War
Korean name
Revised RomanizationBak Jeonghui
McCune–ReischauerPak Chŏnghŭi
Pen name
Revised RomanizationJungsu

Birth change

Park was born in Seonsan, a small town in Gumi-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do near Daegu. He was the seventh child from a family of modest means. His father was Park Seong-bin (age 46 at the time) and his mother was Baek Nam-hui (age 45).[3]

Park came from an undistinguished local branch of Goryeong Bak descent group.[4]

Park won admission to Daegu Teacher's College through a competitive examination. He entered on April 8, 1932 and graduated on March 25, 1937, after five years of study. His formative years coincided with the Japanese invasion of China, starting with the Manchurian incident in 1931 and culminating in all-out war in 1937.

He went on to teach for several years in Mungyeong, where the school has been preserved as a museum.

Military career change

Park won admission to a two-year training program in Manchukuo, the Japanese puppet state in Manchuria. Under the Japanese policy of sōshi-kaimei, he adopted the Japanese-style name Takaki Masao (高木正雄).[5] He graduated from the Japanese Manchurian military academy at the top of his class in 1944. He then was selected for another two years of training at the Imperial Military Academy in Tokyo. Park was a lieutenant in the Kantogun, part of the Imperial Japanese Army, in Manchuria, fighting Mao Zedong's Chinese Communist forces.

Post World War II change

After Japan's defeat in World War II, under his communist elder brother's influence, Park joined a communist group, the South Korean Workers' Party, in the American occupation zone, which later became South Korea. Park was involved in a rebellion in Yeosu and Suncheon, Jeollanam-do, led by units of the new American-supported army. He was arrested and sentenced to death, but released soon after revealing the names of communist participants to the South Korean authorities. He was then released and left the army in dishonor. However; the outbreak of the Korean War enabled him to be reinstated, and he served the new country fighting against the communists.

Ascension to presidency change

Syngman Rhee, the first president of the Republic of (South) Korea, was forced out of office on April 26, 1960 as an aftermath of the April 19 Movement, a student-led uprising. A new government took office on August 13. This was a short-lived period of parliamentary rule in South Korea with a figurehead president, Yun Po-son, in response to the authoritarian excesses and corruption of the Rhee administration. Real power rested with Prime Minister Chang Myon.

Political background change

The new government was caught between an economy that was suffering from a decade of mismanagement and corruption by the Rhee presidency and the students who had forced Rhee out. The students were regularly filling the streets, making numerous and wide-ranging demands for political and economic reforms. Law and order could not be maintained because the police, long an instrument of the Rhee government, were demoralized and had been completely discredited by the public. Continued factional wrangling caused the public to turn away from the party.

Coup d'état change

Seizing the moment, then-Major General Park led a bloodless military coup (called the 5.16 Revolution) on May 16, 1961, a coup largely welcomed by people exhausted by political chaos. Although Chang resisted the coup efforts, President Yun sided with Park and persuaded the United States Eighth Army and the commanders of various South Korean army units not to interfere with the new rulers.

The Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA) was created on June 19, 1961 to prevent a countercoup and to suppress all potential enemies domestic and international. It was to have not only investigative power, but also the power to arrest and detain anyone suspected of wrongdoing or harboring anti-junta sentiments. The KCIA extended its power to economic and foreign affairs under its first director, Colonel (retired) Kim Jong-pil, a relative of Park and one of the original planners of the coup.

Yun remained in office to provide legitimacy to the regime, but resigned on March 22, 1962. Park Chŏng Hŭi was the real power as chairman of the Supreme Council for National Reconstruction. Following pressure from the Kennedy administration in the United States, a civilian government was restored, with Park narrowly winning the 1963 election as the candidate of the newly created Democratic Republican Party over Yun, candidate of the Civil Rule Party. He was re-elected in 1967, again defeating Yun by a narrow margin.

First two terms as president change

Economic reform change

President Pak Chŏng Hŭi at a SEATO convention in Manila he is visible as the third person from the left.

Pak helped to develop South Korea's economy by shifting its focus to export-oriented industrialization. When he came to power in 1961, South Korean per capita income was only USD 72, and North Korea was regarded as the greater economic and military power on the peninsula because North Korea was industrialized under the Japanese régime due to its geographical proximity to Manchuria and merit in terms of natural resources, and managed to rebuild after heavy bombing by the Americans during the Korean War. During Pak's tenure, per capita income increased twentyfold, and South Korea's rural, undeveloped economy was transformed into an industrial powerhouse. Even Kim Tae Jung, one of Pak's most prominent opponents during his rule, has praised him for his role in creating the modern-day South Korea.[6]

The strength of Pak's leadership was evidenced by the remarkable development of industries and rise in the standard of living of average South Korean citizens during his presidency. Many still question Pak's judgment, however, as his 1965 normalization of diplomatic relations with Japan was extremely unpopular and resulted in widespread unrest as memories from Japan's 35-year brutal colonization of Korea proved vivid. However, by normalizing relations with Japan, Pak allowed Japanese capital to flow into the country. These aids and loans—although criticized by many Koreans to be too meager for the 35 years of occupation by Imperial Japan—along with American aid, helped to restore the depleted capital of South Korea. Nonetheless, it must be noted that with North Korea's economy at the time being bigger and more vibrant than that of South Korea, Park did not have many options or much time to negotiate for more fitting reparations and apologies. This issue still plagues Japan and South Korea's relationship today.

Pak was reelected in 1967 against Yun.

Creation of agencies to oversee economic development change

  • The Economic Planning Board (EPB)
  • The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI)
  • The Ministry of Finance (MoF)

Yusin Constitution change

The Constitution of 1963 barred a South Korean president from seeking a third consecutive term. However, with the assistance of the KCIA, Pak's allies in the legislature succeeded in amending the Constitution to allow the current president—himself—to run for three consecutive terms. In 1971, Park was victorious again, this time over Kim Dae-jung in the general election.

Just after being sworn in for his third term, Pak declared a state of emergency "based on the dangerous realities of the international situation." In October 1972, he dissolved Parliament and suspended the Constitution. In December, a new constitution, the Yusin Constitution, was approved easily by the general public. The new document dramatically increased Pak's power. It transferred the election of the president to an electoral college, the National Conference for Unification. The presidential term was increased to six years, with no limits on reelection. In effect, the constitution converted Pak's presidency into a legal dictatorship. Pak was re-elected in 1972 and 1978 with no opposition.

Assassination attempts change

On January 21, 1968, a team of about 10—15 North Korean spies was secretly sent to South Korea to kill Park. They crossed the border mountains and hijacked a bus in Seoul. No civilians were in the bus. The spies drove it towards the Blue House, where Park was at the time. When the Korean military was informed of the presence of the North Koreans, they hurriedly went to protect the president. Armed with machine guns and grenades, the spies drove almost to the Blue House until they met South Korean soldiers. After a short grenade and gun battle, all but one spy were killed. Thirty-seven South Koreans were also killed.

On August 15, 1974, a botched assassination attempt by North Korean agent Mun Se-gwang claimed his wife, Yuk Yeong-su, instead. After this attack he finished the speech he had been giving. His wife died later that day.

Death change

On October 26, 1979, Park was shot to death by Kim Jae-kyu, the director of the KCIA who was his close friend. Kim claimed that Park was an obstacle to democracy and that his act was one of patriotism. After Kim fatally shot the president and the leader of his guards, his agents quickly killed four more of the presidential bodyguards before the group was caught. The entire episode is usually either considered a spontaneous act of passion by an individual and that the actions of the other agents only occurred because the men felt loyalty to Kim and naturally followed his lead, or as part of a pre-arranged attempted coup by the intelligence service, [1], with the latter being more widely believed.

Legacy change

It is alleged by supporters that despite his dictatorial rule and the high growth that occurred during his years in power, Park did not engage in corruption and led a simple life. Detractors allege he was simply a brutal dictator and only brought about high growth through military control over labour.

Being a complex man as a policy maker, many Koreans continue to hold Park in high regard in great part due to the industrial and economic growth experienced by South Korea under his presidency. But there are also many who condemn him for the brutality of his dictatorship and for his service to the Japanese army during World War II. Today, Park's critics deplore the widespread human rights abuses in South Korea during his rule. However, his supporters argue that the human rights abuse accusation is mostly fabricated or exaggerated. One example of his many abuses was the kidnapping of opposition activist Kim Tae Jung. Around noon of August 8, 1973, Kim was attended a meeting with the leader of the Democratic Unification Party in the Room 2212 of the Hotel Grand Palace in Tokyo. At around 13:19, Kim was abducted by a group of unidentified agents as he walked out of the room after the meeting. He was then taken into the empty Room 2210 where he was drugged and became unconscious. Later Kim was moved to Osaka and later to Seoul, South Korea. Kim was later quoted as saying that a weight had been attached to his feet aboard the boat heading toward Korea, indicating that the kidnappers had intended to drown him by throwing him into the sea. They were, however, forced to abandon this plan as the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force began a pursuit of the kidnappers' boat. Later, Kim was released in Busan. He was found alive at his house in Seoul five days after the kidnapping. According to some reports U.S. Ambassador Philip Habib intervened with the South Korean government to save Kim's life.

Pak's daughter Park Geun-hye was elected the chairwoman of the conservative Grand National Party in 2004. She resigned her post in order to prepare a presidential bid for the upcoming election. [2]

Family change

Park Chung-hee was married three times. first wife Kim Ho-nam (1918 - 1990, m.1936 - 1945), birth one daughter, Park Jae-ok(, b.1937). second wife Lee Hyon-lan ( m.1945 - 1947), birth one son,[7] early death (b.1947 and d.1947). third wife Yuk Young-soo(, 1926 - 1974, m.1950 - 1974, her death), birth daughter Park Geun-hye( b.1952) and Park Geun-ryoung(, b.1954), son Park Chi-man( b.1958).

References change

  1. Han, Yong-sup (2011). "The May Sixteenth Military Coup". The Park Chung-hee Era: The Transformation of Korea. Harvard University Press. p. 36. ISBN 9780674058200.
  2. Chambers, John H. (2008). Everyone's History. United States of America: Author Solutions. p. 698. ISBN 978-1436347136.
  3. His eldest brother was Pak Dong-hui (age 22); second brother was Pak Mu-hui (age 19); eldest sister was Bak Gwi-hui (age 15); third brother was Pak Sang-hee (age 11); fourth brother was Pak Han-saeng (age 7); and his youngest sister was Pak Jae-hee (age 5). His two eldest brothers and elder sister were already married when he was born.
  4. It is not clear when Pak's ancestors left the ancestral seat (bon'gwan), Goryeong, in Gyeongsangdo, and throughout much of the Joseon period (1392-1910), they lived further north in the province in Seongju. No family members appear in late Joseon town gazetteers listing local notables, and Pak's surviving children attest that their father never spoke of an aristocratic ancestry. The Goryeong Bak genealogy records no examination passer or an officeholder since the sixteenth century among Pak's direct ancestors, but his father, Seong-bin, appears to have passed the military examination (mugwa) in the waning years of Joseon, probably in the 1890s. Available records on his career are confusing, if not even contradictory. As a whole, Pak's own account and reliable testimonies by those who knew the family, suggest that after earning the examination degree, Seong-bin spent much time and the family's fortune in trying to obtain a government post, and the effort apparently paid off in that a junior ninth military rank, Hyoryeok Buwi, is mentioned by Pak himself. However, other people's claim that Seong-bin became the magistrate of Yeongwol (or Yeongbyeon) cannot be substantiated, although it is certain that he eventually returned home as a frustrated man. A heavy drinker, he spent the remaining years of his life enjoying the company of friends and leaving household affairs to his wife. Seong-bin's life and career certainly require a more thorough research by professional historians, but his stymied aspirations may have shaped at least one of his children's outlook on life, most likely Pak.
  5. (in Japanese) Nagasawa, Masaharu (2001-11-23). "半島に渡った日本語・日本語文学". Saga Women's Junior College. Archived from the original on 2007-02-10. Retrieved 2006-11-25. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  6. "". Archived from the original on 2007-01-17. Retrieved 2006-12-30.
  7. "박정희 동거녀 이현란, 아들 낳았다" 오마이뉴스 2011.05.16 (in Korean)

Other websites change

Preceded by
Yun Poson
President of South Korea
Succeeded by
Choi Kyuha
Preceded by
Song Yo-chan
Acting Prime minister of South Korea
Succeeded by
Kim Hyun Cheol