Park Chung-hee (14 November 1917 – 26 October 1979) was a South Korean politician and army general who served as the President of South Korea from 1963 until his assassination in 1979, assuming that office after first ruling the country as head of a military dictatorship installed by the May 16 military coup d'état in 1961. Before his presidency, he was the chairman of the Supreme Council for National Reconstruction from 1961 to 1963 after a career as a military leader in the South Korean army. Park's coup brought an end to the interim government of the Second Republic and his election and inauguration in 1963 ushered in the Third Republic. Seeking to bring South Korea into the developed world, Park began a series of economic policies that brought rapid economic growth and industrialization to the nation that eventually became known as the Miracle on the Han River. South Korea possessed one of the fastest growing national economies during the 1960s and 1970s as a result.
|3rd President of South Korea|
24 March 1962 – 26 October 1979
Acting to 17 December 1963
|Prime Minister||Choi Tu-son|
|Preceded by||Yun Posun|
|Succeeded by||Choi Kyu-hah|
|Chairman of the Supreme Council for National Reconstruction|
3 July 1961 – 17 December 1963
|Preceded by||Chang Do-yong|
|Succeeded by||Position abolished|
|Deputy Chairman of the Supreme Council for National Reconstruction|
16 May 1961 – 2 July 1961
|Preceded by||Position established|
|Succeeded by||Position abolished|
|Born||14 November 1917|
Seonsan, North Gyeongsang, Japanese Korea
(now Gumi, South Korea)
|Died||26 October 1979 61) (aged|
Jongno, Seoul, South Korea
|Cause of death||Assassination|
|Resting place||Seoul National Cemetery|
|Political party||Democratic Republican|
|Workers' Party of South Korea (1946–1948)|
(m. 1936; div. 1950)
(m. 1950; died 1974)
|Alma mater||Imperial Japanese Army Academy|
Korea Military Academy
Manchukuo Army Military Academy
|Branch/service|| Manchukuo Imperial Army (1944–1945)|
Republic of Korea Army (1945–1963)
|Years of service||1944–1963|
|Battles/wars||Second Sino-Japanese War |
World War II
|Revised Romanization||Bak Jeonghui|
Although popular during the 1960s, by the 1970s, as growth began to slow, Park's popularity started to wane. This resulted in closer than expected victories during the 1971 South Korean presidential election and the subsequent legislative elections. Following this, in 1972, Park declared martial law and amended the constitution into a highly authoritarian document, called the Yushin Constitution. Formally, the pretense was that the Yushin Constitution was the seventh Constitutional amendment. In actuality, its effect was tantamount to abolition of the former Constitution – effectively creating a new one in an effort to legitimize the new Fourth Republic. During this time, political opposition and dissent was constantly repressed and Park had complete control of the media and military.
Park survived several assassination attempts, including two operations associated with North Korea. Following the student uprising later known as the Bu-Ma Democratic Protests, Park was assassinated on 26 October 1979 by his close friend Kim Jae-gyu, the director of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency, at a safe house in Seoul. Cha Ji-chul, chief of the Presidential Security Service, was also fatally shot by Kim. Kim and his accomplices were tortured, convicted and executed for the assassination as Choi Kyu-hah became Acting President pursuant to Article 48 of the Yushin Constitution. Major General Chun Doo-hwan quickly amassed sweeping powers after his Defense Security Command was charged with investigating the assassination, first taking control of the military and the KCIA before installing another military junta and finally assuming the presidency in 1980. Whether the assassination was spontaneous or premeditated is something that remains unclear today—the motivations of Kim Jae-gyu are still debated.
Economic growth continued after Park's death and after considerable political turmoil in the wake of his assassination and the military Coup d'état of December Twelfth, the country eventually democratized. Later presidents included political activist Kim Dae-jung, who was arrested under Park's regime and later received a death-sentence which was quickly revoked, in part thanks to the urging of United States officials. Park is a controversial figure in modern South Korean political discourse and among the South Korean populace in general for his dictatorship and undemocratic ways. While some credit him for sustaining the Miracle on the Han River, which reshaped and modernized South Korea, others criticize his authoritarian way of ruling the country (especially after 1971) and for prioritizing economic growth and contrived social order at the expense of civil liberties.
In 2012, the Park Jung-hee Presidential Library and Museum was opened. On 25 February 2013, his eldest daughter, Park Geun-hye, became the first female president of South Korea. She was impeached and removed from office on 10 March 2017 as a result of an influence-peddling scandal. She was sentenced to 24 years in prison in April 2018.
Early life and education
Park was born on 14 November 1917, in Gumi, North Gyeongsang in Korea under Japanese rule, to parents Park Sung-bin and Bek Nam-eui. He was the youngest of five brothers and two sisters in a poor Yangban family. Extremely intelligent, egotistic and ambitious, Park's hero from his boyhood on was Napoleon, and he frequently expressed much disgust that he had to grow up in the poor and backward countryside of Korea, a place that was not suitable for someone like himself. Those who knew Park as a youth recalled that a recurring theme of his remarks was his wish to "escape" from the Korean countryside. As someone who had grown up under Japanese rule, Park often expressed his admiration for Japan's rapid modernization after the Meiji Restoration of 1867 and for Bushido ("the way of the warrior"), the Japanese warrior code.
As a youth, he won admission to a teaching school in Daegu and worked as a teacher in Mungyeong-eup after graduating in high school, but was reportedly a very mediocre student. Following the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War, the ambitious Park decided to enter the Changchun Military Academy of the Manchukuo Imperial Army, with help from Imperial Japanese Army Colonel Arikawa (a drill instructor at the teaching school in Daegu who was impressed by Park's military ambitions). During this time, he adopted the Japanese name Takagi Masao (高木正雄). He graduated top of his class in 1942 (receiving a gold watch from the Emperor Puyi himself) and was recognized as a talented officer by his Japanese instructors, who recommended him for further studies at the Imperial Japanese Army Academy in Japan.
After graduating third in the class of 1944, Park was commissioned as a lieutenant into the Imperial Army of Manchukuo, a Japanese puppet-state, and served during the final stages of World War II as aide-de-camp to a regimental commander. The Japanese used Korean turncoats to suppress Korean armed resistance.
Return to Korea
Park returned to Korea after the war and enrolled at the Korea Military Academy. He graduated in the second class of 1946 (one of his classmates was Kim Jae-gyu, his close friend and later assassin) and became an officer in the constabulary army under the United States Army Military Government in South Korea. The newly established South Korean government, under the leadership of Syngman Rhee, arrested Park in November 1948 on charges that he led a communist cell in the Korean constabulary. Park was subsequently sentenced to death by a military court, but his sentence was commuted by Rhee at the urging of several high-ranking Korean military officers. While Park had been a member of the Workers' Party of South Korea, the allegations concerning his involvement in a military cell were never substantiated. Nevertheless, he was forced out of the army. While working in the Army as an unpaid civilian assistant, he came across the 8th class of the Korea Military Academy (graduated in 1950), among whom was Kim Jong-pil, and this particular class would later serve as the backbone of the May 16 coup. After the Korean War began and with help from Paik Sun-Yup, Park returned to active service as a major in the South Korean Army. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel in September 1950 and to colonel in April 1951. As a colonel, Park was the deputy director of the Army Headquarters Intelligence Bureau in 1952 before switching to artillery and commanded the II and III Artillery Corps during the war. By the time the war ended in 1953, Park had risen to become a brigadier general. After the signing of the Korean Armistice Agreement, Park was selected for six-months training at Fort Sill in the United States.
After returning to Korea, Park rose rapidly in the military hierarchy. He was the head of the Army's Artillery School and commanded the 5th and 7th Divisions of the South Korean army before his promotion to major general in 1958. Park was then appointed Chief of Staff of the First Army and made the head of the Korean 1st and 6th District Command, which gave him responsibility for the defense of Seoul. In 1960, Park became commander of the Pusan Logistics Command before becoming Chief of the Operations Staff of the South Korean Army and the deputy commander of the Second Army. As such, he was one of the most powerful and influential figures in the military.
Rise to power
On 26 April 1960, Syngman Rhee, the authoritarian inaugural President of South Korea, was forced out of office and into exile following the 19 April Movement, a student-led uprising. A new democratic government took office on 13 August 1960. However, this was a short-lived period of parliamentary rule in South Korea. Yun Bo-seon was a figurehead president, with the real power vested in Prime Minister Chang Myon. Problems arose immediately because neither man could command loyalty from any majority of the Democratic Party or reach agreement on the composition of the cabinet. Prime Minister Chang attempted to hold the tenuous coalition together by reshuffling cabinet positions three times within five months.
Meanwhile, the new government was caught between an economy that was suffering from a decade of mismanagement and corruption under the Rhee presidency and the students who had instigated Rhee's ousting. Protesters regularly filled the streets making numerous and wide-ranging demands for political and economic reforms. Public security had deteriorated while the public had distrusted the police, which was long under the control of the Rhee government, and the ruling Democratic Party lost public support after long factional fighting.
Against this backdrop of social instability and division, Major General Park formed the Military Revolutionary Committee. When he found out that he was going to be retired within the next few months, he sped up the Committee's plans. It led a military coup on 16 May 1961, which was nominally led by Army Chief of Staff Chang Do-yong after his defection on the day it started. The military takeover rendered powerless the democratically elected government of President Yun, ending the Second Republic.
Initially, a new administration was formed from among those military officers who supported Park. The reformist military Supreme Council for National Reconstruction was nominally led by General Chang. Following Chang's arrest in July 1961, Park took overall control of the council. The coup was largely welcomed by a general populace exhausted by political chaos. Although Prime Minister Chang and United States Army General Carter Magruder resisted the coup efforts, President Yun sided with the military and persuaded the United States Eighth Army and the commanders of various ROK army units not to interfere with the new government. Soon after the coup, Park was promoted to Lieutenant General. The South Korean historian Hwang Moon Kyung described Park's rule as very "militaristic", noting right from the start Park aimed to mobilize South Korean society along "militaristically disciplined lines". One of Park's very first acts upon coming to power was a campaign to "clean up" the streets by arresting and putting to work all street kids and vagrants.
The American historian Carter Eckert wrote that the historiography, including his work, around Park has tended to ignore the "enormous elephant in the room" namely that the way in which Park sought kündaehwa (modernization) of South Korean was influenced by his distinctively militaristic way of understanding the world, and the degree in which the Japanophile Park was influenced by Japanese militarism as he created what South Korean historians call a "developmental dictatorship". Eckert called South Korea under Park's leadership of the most militarized states in the entire world, writing that Park sought to militarize South Korean society in a way that no other South Korean leader has ever attempted. In the Imperial Japanese Army, there was the belief that Bushido would give Japanese soldiers enough "spirit" as to make them invincible in battle, as the Japanese regarded war as simply a matter of willpower with the side with the stronger will always prevailing. Reflecting his background as a man trained by Japanese officers, one of Park's favorite sayings was "we can do anything if we try" as Park argued that all problems could be overcome by sheer willpower. Eckert wrote when interviewing Park's closest friends, he always received the same answer when he asked them what was the important influence on Park, namely his officer training by the Japanese in Manchukuo. All of Park's friends told Eckert that to understand him, one needed to understand his Ilbonsik sagwan kyoyuk (Japanese officer training) as they all maintained Park's values were those of an Imperial Japanese Army officer.
On 19 June 1961, the military council created the Korean Central Intelligence Agency in order to prevent counter-coups and suppress potential enemies, both foreign and domestic. Along with being given investigative powers, the KCIA was also given the authority to arrest and detain anyone suspected of wrongdoing or having anti-government sentiments. Under its first director, retired Brigadier General Kim Jong-pil, a relative of Park and one of the original planners of the coup, the KCIA would extend its power to economic and foreign affairs.
President Yun remained in office, giving the military regime legitimacy. After Yun resigned on 24 March 1962, Lt. General Park, who remained chairman of the Supreme Council for National Reconstruction, consolidated his power by becoming acting president; he was also promoted to full general. Park agreed to restore civilian rule following pressure from the Kennedy administration.
In 1963, he was elected president in his own right as the candidate of the newly created Democratic Republican Party. He appointed Park Myung-keun, the Vice Leader of the party as the chief of the President's Office. He narrowly defeated former President Yun, the candidate of the Civil Rule Party, by just over 156,000 votes—a margin of 1.5 percent. Park would be re-elected president in 1967, defeating Yun with somewhat less difficulty.
In June 1965 Park signed a treaty normalizing relations with Japan, which included payment of reparations and the making of soft-loans from Japan, and led to increased trade and investment between South Korea and Japan. In July 1966 South Korea and the United States signed a Status of Forces Agreement establishing a more equal relationship between the two countries. With its growing economic strength and the security guarantee of the United States, the threat of a conventional invasion from North Korea seemed increasingly remote. Following the escalation of the Vietnam War with the deployment of ground combat troops in March 1965, South Korea sent the Capital Division and the 2nd Marine Brigade to South Vietnam in September 1965, followed by the White Horse Division in September 1966. Throughout the 1960s, Park made speeches in which he blamed the Anglo-Japanese Alliance and the British for Japan's takeover of Korea.
At the request of the United States, Park sent approximately 320,000 South Korean troops to fight alongside the United States and South Vietnam during the Vietnam War; a commitment second only to that of the United States. The stated reasons for this were to help maintain good relations with the United States, prevent the further advance of communism in East Asia and to enhance the Republic's international standing. In January 1965, on the day when a bill mandating a major deployment passed the National Assembly (with 106 votes for and 11 against), Park announced that it was "time for South Korea to wean itself from a passive position of receiving help or suffering intervention, and to assume a proactive role of taking responsibility on major international issues." South Korean soldiers were successful in battles against Viet Cong, but gained a reputation for brutality towards civilians.
Although primarily to strengthen the military alliance with the United States, there were also financial incentives for South Korea's participation in the war. South Korean military personnel were paid by the United States federal government and their salaries were remitted directly to the South Korean government. Park was eager to send South Korean troops to Vietnam and vigorously campaigned to extend the war. In return for troop commitments, South Korea received tens of billions of dollars in grants, loans, subsidies, technology transfers, and preferential markets, all provided by the Johnson and Nixon administrations.
Park oversaw transitional changes between the two Koreas from conflict to consolidation. In 1961, the North Korean leader, Kim Il-sung secretly sent Hwang Tae-song, a former friend of Park Chung-hee and a vice-minister in ministry of trade, to South Korea, hoping to improve inter-Korean relations. However, in order to dissipate the suspicions about his Communist leanings and assure Americans his firm stance as an ally, Park decided to execute Hwang as a spy.
Beginning in October 1964, North Korea increased the infiltration of its intelligence-gatherers and propagandists into the South. More than 30 South Korean soldiers and at least 10 civilians had been killed in clashes with North Korean infiltrators by October 1966.
In October 1966, Park ordered the Korean Army to stage a retaliatory attack without seeking the approval of General Charles Bonesteel. This action, which was in retaliation for ongoing South Korean losses, caused tension between Park's government and the U.S. command in Korea, which wished to avoid violations of the armistice.
Between 1966 and 1969 the clashes escalated as Park's armed forces were involved in firefights along the Korean DMZ. The fighting, sometimes referred to as the Second Korean War, was related to a speech given by Kim Il-sung on 5 October 1966 in which the North Korean leader challenged the legitimacy of the 1953 Armistice Agreement. Kim stated that irregular warfare could now succeed in a way conventional warfare could not because the South Korean military was now involved with the ever-growing Vietnam War. He believed Park's administration could be undermined if armed provocation by North Korea was directed against U.S. troops. This would force United States to reconsider its worldwide commitments. Any splits would give the North an opportunity to incite an insurgency in the South against Park.
On 21 January 1968, the 31-man Unit 124 of North Korean People's Army special forces commandos attempted to assassinate Park and nearly succeeded. They were stopped just 800 metres from the Blue House by a police patrol. A fire fight broke out and all but two of the North Koreans were killed or captured. In response to the assassination attempt, Park organized Unit 684, a group intended to assassinate Kim Il-Sung. It was disbanded in 1971.
Despite the hostility, negotiations were conducted between the North and South regarding reunification. On 4 July 1972 both countries released a joint statement specifying that reunification must be achieved internally with no reliance on external forces or outside interference, that the process must be achieved peacefully without the use of military force, and that all parties must promote national unity as a united people over any differences of ideological and political systems. The United States Department of State was not happy with these proposals and, following Park's assassination in 1979, they were quietly buried.
On 15 August 1974, Park was delivering a speech in the National Theater in Seoul at the ceremony to celebrate the 29th anniversary of the ending of colonial rule when a man named Mun Se-gwang fired a gun at Park from the front row. The would-be assassin, who was a Japanese-born North Korean sympathizer, missed Park but a stray bullet struck his wife Yuk Young-soo (who died later that day) and others on the stage. Park continued his speech as his dying wife was carried off the stage. Mun was hanged in a Seoul prison four months later. On the first anniversary of his wife's death, Park wrote in his diary "I felt as though I had lost everything in the world. All things became a burden and I lost my courage and will. A year has passed since then. And during that year I have cried alone in secret too many times to count."
One of Park's main goals was to end the poverty of South Korea, and lift the country up from being a Third World economy to a First World economy via etatist methods. Using the Soviet Union and its Five Year Plans as a model, Park launched his first Five Year Plan in 1962 by declaring the city of Ulsan was a "special industrial development zone". The chaebol of Hyundai took advantage of Ulsan's special status to make the city the home of its main factories.
Park is credited with playing a pivotal role in the development of South Korea's tiger economy by shifting its focus to export-oriented industrialisation. When he came to power in 1961, South Korea's per capita income was only US$72.00. North Korea was the greater economic and military power on the peninsula due to the North's history of heavy industries such as the power and chemical plants, and the large amounts of economic, technical and financial aid it received from other communist bloc countries such as the Soviet Union, East Germany and China.
One of Park's reforms was to bring in 24 hour provision of electricity in 1964, which was a major change as previously homes and businesses were provided with electricity for a few hours every day. With the second Five Year Plan in 1967, Park founded the Kuro Industrial Park in southwestern Seoul, and created the state owned Pohang Iron and Steel Company Limited to provide cheap steel for the chaebol, who were founding the first automobile factories and shipyards in South Korea. Reflecting its etatist tendencies, the Park government rewarded chaebol who met their targets under the Five Year Plans with loans on easy terms of repayment, tax cuts, easy licensing and subsidies. It was common from the late 1960s onward for South Koreans to speak of the "octopus" nature of the chaebol as they began to extend their "tentacles" into all areas of the economy. Some of the successful chaebol like Lucky Goldstar (LG) and Samsung went back to the Japanese period while others like Hyundai were founded shortly after the end of Japanese rule; all would go to become world-famous companies. Hyundai, which began as a transport firm moving supplies for the U.S. Army during the Korean War, came to dominate the South Korean construction industry in the 1960s, and in 1967 opened its first car factory, building automobiles under license for Ford. In 1970, Hyundai finished the construction of the Seoul-Pusan Expressway, which became one of the busiest highways of South Korea, and in 1975 produced the Pony, its first car that was designed entirely by its own engineers. Besides manufacturing automobiles and construction, Hyundai moved into shipbuilding, cement, chemicals and electronics, ultimately becoming one of the world's largest corporations. In 3 August 1972,Park made the so-called "Emergency financial act of August 3rd(8·3긴급금융조치)" which banned all private loans to make the foundation of economic growth, and supported Chaebols even further.
A sign of the growth of the South Korean economy was that in 1969 there were 200,000 television sets in operation in South Korea, and by 1979 there were six million television sets operating in South Korea. In 1969, only 6% of South Korean families owned a television; by 1979 four of every five South Korean families owned a TV. However, all television in South Korea was in black and white, and the color television did not come to South Korea until 1979. Reflecting the growth of TV ownership, the state-owned Korean Broadcasting System (KBS) began to produce more programming, while private sector corporation MBC began operating in 1969. During the Yusin era, television productions were subjected to strict censorship with, for example, men with long hair being banned from appearing on TV, but soap operas became a cultural phenomenon in the 1970s, becoming extremely popular.
South Korean industry saw remarkable development under Park's leadership. Park viewed Japan's development model, in particular the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) and the Keiretsu, as an example for Korea. Park emulated MITI by establishing the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) and the Economic Planning Board (EPB). Government-corporate cooperation on expanding South Korean exports helped lead to the growth of some South Korean companies into today's giant Korean conglomerates, the chaebols.
The economic development of South Korea continued; however the government did not recognize a minimum wage or weekly leave, imposed periods of free work for its benefit and working days were of a duration of twelve hours. Trade unions and collective labor actions were prohibited.
Park's economic policy was highlighted by South Korea's relationship with West Germany. Park had an affinity for Germany due to its history of having strong leadership like that of Bismarck and Hitler, and wanted to create ties with West Germany to deal with the problems of increasing population growth and economic hardships and to receive an inflow of foreign capital for domestic development. Upon an agreement in 1961, South Korea sent labor forces to Germany, including more than 8,000 mine workers and 10,000 nurses, which continued until 1977.(See Gastarbeiter and Koreans in Germany)
Park was close friends with the last Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who had established diplomatic relations in 1962 and following a visit to Iran in 1969, developed a close relationship with the two countries. Park realized the importance of Iran in securing oil for South Korea's industrial development and by 1973, was their main and only source of oil during the Oil Crisis. Most refineries in South Korea were built to process Iranian crude and thousands of engineers and workers were sent to Iran to help develop their refining capability. The relationship eventually expanded beyond oil as Park promoted other industries to operate in Iran. Many Chaebol's went to Iran, including Hyundai Engineering & Construction, whose first Middle East Project were a series of shipyards in Bandar Abbas and Chahbahar to help develop Iran's maritime industry. Park's favorite architect Kim Swoo-Geun and his office designed the Ekbatan Complex in Tehran and the South Korean Special Forces helped train the Imperial Iranian Navy Commandos.
Park invited the Shah in 1978 for a special "South Korea-Iran" summit to further deepen relations but due to the Iranian Revolution, it never materialized. In preparation for that summit, Tehran and Seoul became sister cities and the two exchanged street names as well; Teheran-ro in Gangnam and Seoul Street in Tehran which both still remain.
Among Park's first actions upon assuming control of South Korea in 1961 was to pass strict legislation metrifying the country and banning the use of traditional Korean measurements like the li and pyeong. Despite its strict wording, the law's enforcement was so spotty as to be considered a failure, with the government abandoning prosecution under its terms by 1970. In the end, South Korea's traditional units continued until June 2001.
After taking office for his second term in 1967, Park promised that, in accordance with the 1963 Constitution which limited the president to two consecutive terms, he would step down in 1971. However, soon after his 1967 victory, the Democratic Republican-dominated National Assembly successfully pushed through an amendment allowing the incumbent president —himself— to run for three consecutive terms.
In the meantime, Park grew anxious of the shift in US policy towards communism under Richard Nixon's Guam Doctrine. His government's legitimacy depended on staunch anti-communism, and any moderation of that policy from South Korea's allies (including the US) threatened the very basis of his rule. Park began to seek options to further cement his hold on the country. In May 1970, the Catholic poet Kim Chi-ha was arrested for supposedly violating the Anti-Communist Law for his poem Five Bandits, which in fact had no references to Communism either explicitly or implicitly, but instead attacked corruption under Park. The issue of the journal Sasanggye that published the Five Bandits was shut down by the government. One of the eponymous bandits of the Five Bandits is described as a general who began his career fighting for Japan in World War Two, and all of the bandits of the poem are described as Chinilpa collaborators who served Japan because of their greed and amorality. Park recognized the reference to himself in Five Bandits with the character of the general while the fact that all of the bandits have a Chinilpa background was a reference to the social basis of Park's regime. In 1974, Kim was sentenced to death for his poem, and though he was not executed, he spent almost all of the 1970s in prison. Later in 1970, Park launched his Saemaul Undong (New Village Movement) that set out to modernize the countryside by providing electricity and running water to farmers, building paved roads, and replacing thatched roofs with tin roofs (the latter was said to reflect a personal obsession on the part of Park, who could not stand the sight of thatched roofs on farmers' homes, which for him was a sign of South Korea's backwardness).
In 1971, Park won another close election against his rival, Kim Dae-jung. That December, shortly after being sworn in, he declared a state of emergency "based on the dangerous realities of the international situation". In October 1972, Park dissolved the legislature and suspended the 1963 constitution in a self-coup. Work then began on drafting a new constitution. Park had drawn inspiration for his self-coup from Ferdinand Marcos, President of the Philippines, who had orchestrated a similar coup a few weeks earlier.
A new constitution, the so-called Yushin Constitution was approved in a heavily rigged plebiscite in November 1972. Meaning "rejuvenation" or "renewal" (as well as "restoration" in some contexts), scholars see the term's usage as Park alluding to himself as an "imperial president."
The new Yushin constitution was a highly authoritarian document. It transferred the presidential election process to an electoral college, the National Conference for Unification. It also dramatically expanded the president's powers. Notably, he was given sweeping powers to rule by decree and suspend constitutional freedoms. The presidential term was increased from four to six years, with no limits on re-election. For all intents and purposes, it codified the emergency powers Park had exercised for the past year, transforming his presidency into a legal dictatorship. As per his new constitution, Park ran for a fresh term as president in December 1972, and won unopposed. He was reelected in 1978 also unopposed. Many of South Korea's leading writers were opposed to the Park regime, and many of the best remembered poems and novels of the 1970s satirized the Yushin system.
Park argued that Western-style liberal democracy was not suitable for South Korea due to its still-shaky economy. He believed that in the interest of stability, the country needed a "Korean-style democracy" with a strong, unchallenged presidency. Although he repeatedly promised to open up the regime and restore full democracy, fewer and fewer people believed him.
In 1975, Park ordered homeless people and children to be removed from the streets of Seoul. Thousands of people were captured by the police and sent to thirty-six camps. The detainees were then used as free labor by the authorities and subjected to degrading treatment. Many died under torture.
Park abolished the usage of hanja or Chinese characters and established hangul exclusivity for the Korean language in the 1960s and 1970s. After a Five-Year Hangul Exclusivity Plan (한글종양오년계획) was promulgated through legislative and executive means, from 1970, using hanja became illegal in all grades of public school and in the military. This led to stronger national identity and less illiteracy in South Korea.
Final years and assassination
Although the growth of the South Korean economy had secured a high level of support for Park's presidency in the 1960s, that support began to fade after economic growth started slowing in the early 1970s. Many South Koreans were becoming unhappy with his autocratic rule, his security services and the restrictions placed on personal freedoms. While Park had legitimised his administration, using the provisions laid down in the state of emergency laws dating back to the Korean War, he also failed to address the constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and the press. Furthermore, the security service, the KCIA, retained broad powers of arrest and detention; many of Park's opponents were held without trial and frequently tortured. Eventually demonstrations against the Yushin system erupted throughout the country as Park's unpopularity began to rise.
These demonstrations came to a decisive moment on 16 October 1979, when a student group calling for the end of dictatorship and the Yushin system began at Busan National University. The action, which was part of the "Pu-Ma" struggle (named for the Pusan and Masan areas), soon moved into the streets of the city where students and riot police fought all day. By evening, up to 50,000 people had gathered in front of Busan city hall. Over the next two days several public offices were attacked and around 400 protesters were arrested. On 18 October, Park's government declared martial law in Busan. On the same day protests spread to Kyungnam University in Masan. Up to 10,000 people, mostly students and workers, joined the demonstrations against Park's Yushin System. Violence quickly escalated with attacks being launched at police stations and city offices of the ruling party. By night fall a citywide curfew was put into place in Masan.
On 26 October 1979, six days after the student protests ended, Park was shot dead by Kim Jae-gyu, the director of the KCIA, after a banquet at a safehouse in Gungjeong-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul. Kim also killed Park's chief bodyguard, Cha Ji-chul. Other KCIA officers then went to other parts of the building shooting dead four more presidential guards. Kim and his group were later arrested by soldiers under South Korea's Army Chief of Staff. They were tortured and later executed. It's unclear whether this was a spontaneous act of passion by an individual or part of a pre-arranged attempted coup by the intelligence service. Kim claimed that Park was an obstacle to democracy and that his act was one of patriotism. The investigation's head, Chun Doo-hwan, rejected his claims and concluded that Kim acted to preserve his own power.
Park, who was said to be a devout Buddhist, was accorded the first South Korean interfaith state funeral on 3 November in Seoul. He was buried with full military honors at the National Cemetery. Kim Jae-gyu, whose motive for murdering Park remains unclear, was hanged on 24 May 1980.
Park was married to Kim Ho-nam (having one daughter with her) and the two later divorced. Afterwards, he married Yuk Young-soo, and the couple had two daughters and one son. Yuk was killed in the assassination attempt against Park in 1974.
Park's eldest daughter from his second marriage (with Yuk Young-soo), Park Geun-hye, was elected the chairwoman of the conservative Grand National Party in 2004. She was elected as South Korea's 18th and first female president in 2012 and took office in February 2013. Park Geun-hye's association to her father's legacy has served as a double-edged sword. She had previously been labeled as the daughter of a dictator; however she has been quoted as saying "I want to be judged on my own merits." Her presidency ended in her impeachment in 2016 and removal from office in 2017. She was sentenced to 24 years in prison on 6 April 2018. Park is currently held at Seoul Detention Center.
Park was a member of the Goryeong Park clan (Korean: 고령 박씨; Hanja: 高靈朴氏), and he was a 29th generation descendant of the clan; among its various family branches, Park was from the Jikganggong Branch (Korean: 직강공파; Hanja: 直講公派). One of his great-great-grandmothers was from the Jeonju Yi clan, the former ruling family of Joseon and the Korean Empire.
- Great-great-grandfather: Park Yung-hwan (Korean: 박영환; Hanja: 朴英煥 ?-1838), courtesy name Hwaeon (Korean: 화언; Hanja: 華彥). He was the son of Park Se-hyung and Lady Park of the Miryang Park clan.
- Great-great-grandmother: Lady Yi of the Jeonju Yi clan (1786-1849), daughter Yi Hyung-ho (Korean: 이형호; Hanja: 李亨浩).
- Great-grandfather: Park Yi-chan (Korean: 박이찬; Hanja: 朴履燦 ?-1846), courtesy name Muji (Korean: 무지; Hanja: 茂之).
- Great-grandmother: Lady Lee of the Seongju Lee clan, daughter of Lee-Yi-jeong (Korean: 이이정; Hanja: 李以貞).
- Grandfather: Park Yung-gyu (Korean: 박영규; Hanja: 朴永奎 1840-1914), courtesy name Munseo (Korean: 문서; Hanja: 文瑞).
- Grandmother: Lady Lee of Seongju Lee clan (1840-1915), daughter of Lee Bae-sik (Korean: 이배식; Hanja: 李培植).
- South Korea:
- Recipient of the Grand Order of Mugunghwa
- Recipient of the Order of Merit for National Foundation (Order of the Republic of Korea)
- Recipient of the Order of Diplomatic Service Merit (Grand Gwanghwa Medal)
- Recipient of the Order of Service Merit (1st class)
- Recipient of the Order of National Security Merit (Tongil Medal)
- Recipient of the Order of Military Merit (Taegeuk Cordon Medal)
- Recipient of the Order of Civil Merit (Mugunghwa Medal)
- Grand Cross of the Order of the Liberator General San Martín
- Grand Star of the Decoration of Honour for Services to the Republic of Austria
- Grand Cross of the Royal Order of Cambodia
- Grand Cross of the Order of Merit
- El Salvador:
- Grand Officer of the Order of José Matías Delgado
- Ethiopian Empire:
- Grand Cordon of the Order of the Queen of Sheba
- Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Equatorial Star
- West Germany:
- Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany
- First Class of the Star of the Republic of Indonesia
- Knight Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic
- Honorary Recipient of the Most Exalted Order of the Crown of the Realm (1965)
- Grand Cross of the Order of the Aztec Eagle
- Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Netherlands Lion
- Grand Officer of the National Order
- Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of St. Olav
- Grand Officer of the Order of Manuel Amador Guerrero
- Grand Cross of the Order of the Sun of Peru
- Grand Collar of the Order of Sikatuna
- Knight Grand Cross of the National Order of the Lion
- South Vietnam:
- Grand Cross of the National Order of Vietnam
- Collar of the Order of Civil Merit
- Royal Order of the Seraphim
- United States:
- Chief Commander of the Legion of Merit
Park led the Miracle on the Han River, a period of rapid economic growth in South Korea, until 1979. However, his authoritarian rule saw numerous human rights abuses. Opinion is thus split regarding his legacy between those who credit Park for his reforms and those who condemn his authoritarian way of ruling the country (especially after 1971). Older generations who spent their adulthood during Park's rule tend to credit Park for building the economic foundation of the country and protecting the country from North Korea, as well as leading Korea to economic and global prominence. Although Park was listed as one of the top ten "Asians of the Century" by Time magazine in 1999, the newer generations of Koreans and those who fought for democratization tend to believe his authoritarian rule was unjustified, and that he hindered South Korea's transition to democracy. He is also believed to be one of the main causes of regionalism which is a serious problem in Korea today.
Park Chung-hee remains a controversial figure in South Korea. The eighteen-year Park era is considered to be one of the most, if not the most, controversial topics for the Korean public, politicians, and scholars both at home and abroad. A large number of South Koreans, especially those from Park's native Yeongnam region, consider Park to be one of the greatest leaders in the country's history and thus continue to hold Park in high regard in great part due to the industrial and economic growth experienced by South Korea under his regime. Park was accused of having pro-Japanese tendencies by some, but it is widely agreed that Park is responsible for the beginning of a normalized relationship with Japan and today Japan is one of South Korea's top trading partners, surpassed only by the People's Republic of China and the United States. He is often credited as being one of the major people responsible for bringing economic growth and development to South Korea. Park has been recognized and respected by many South Koreans as his country's most efficient leader, credited with making South Korea economically what it is today. However, Park is also regarded as a highly repressive dictator who restricted personal freedoms and was isolated from the people. At the very least, his actions put United States and South Korea foreign relations at risk, at least under Carter. Dissolving the constitution to allow him unopposed rule and a third term, blackmail, arresting, jailing and murdering opposition figures are well documented. The new constitution President Park implemented after declaring the state of emergency in 1971, gave him the power to appoint one third of the members of the National Assembly and even outlawed criticism of the constitution and of the president. There were also many economic feats established during Park's regime, including the Gyeongbu Expressway, POSCO, the famous Five-Year Plans of South Korea, and the New Community Movement.
On 24 October 2007, following an internal inquiry, South Korea's National Intelligence Service (NIS) admitted that its precursor, the Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA), undertook the kidnapping of opposition leader and future President Kim Dae-jung, saying it had at least tacit backing from then-leader Park Chung-hee.
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However the Yushin Constitution may have merely formalised rather than directly established the "imperial presidencyCS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
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|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Park Chung-hee|
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