The defeat of the United States in Vietnam, convinced Park that the United States was an unreliable ally and that strength needed to be asserted at home. This lead to a revival of authoritarian and military rule. Park encouraged an ideology called yushin (revitalizing reforms) that valued strength and self-reliance and wasn’t all that different from Kim il Sung’s juche. While the United States criticized Parks human rights violations, they also supported him militarily and economically.

Park cracked down on intellectuals, students, religious leaders, workers and justified his actions by accusing them of collaborating with Communists. Dissidents were followed and had their tax records scrutinized. Church meetings were monitored by men who "never sing hymns, refuse the collection plate and frequently take pictures of worshipers." Teachers were arrested for failing to teach their students that Park’s regime was the leader of the world’s greatest liberal democracy.

Park ran South Korea with an iron fist. He ruthlessly cracked down on unions and the press, routinely imprisoned and purged anyone who spoke up against him, and used the Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA) to torture and silence and opponents. At one time it was estimated that there were 30,000 KCIA agents.

During the summer of 1965, riots erupted all over the ROK in protest against the ROK-Japan Normalization Treaty, which established diplomatic relations and replaced Korean war-reparation claims with Japanese promises to extend economic aid. The riots were met with harsh countermeasures, including another period of martial law and widespread arrests of demonstrators. Further demonstrations erupted in 1966, when the ROK's decision to send 45,000 combat troops to Vietnam became known.

In South Jeolla province, communist sympathizers were brutalized by the military dictatorship. Kim Young-sik, born in 1950, the year the Korean War began, said: "When I was growing up, you could get in trouble just wearing a red scarf."

Martial Law in the 1970s

Student demonstrations against the government in the fall of 1971 prompted Park to declare a state of national emergency in December 1971. Three weeks later, in a predawn session held without the knowledge of the opposition, the National Assembly granted Park extraordinary governmental powers to control, regulate, and mobilize the people, the economy, the press, and everything else in the public domain.

In October 1972, Park Chung Hee declared martial law and created a new constitution and changed the election system, allowing indirect voting which gave the incumbent the ability to control elections. He dissolved the National Assembly, closed all universities and colleges, imposed strict press censorship, and suspended political activities. Within a few days he "submitted" a new draft constitution — designated the yusin (revitalization) constitution — to a national referendum.

The new constitution, ratified by national referendum in November 1972, vastly increased the powers of the presidency in economic as well as political affairs. The 1972 constitution allowed Park to succeed himself indefinitely, to appoint one-third of the National Assembly's members, and to exercise emergency powers at will. The president was to be chosen by the more than 2,000 locally elected deputies of the supposedly nonpartisan National Conference for Unification, who were to cast their votes as an electoral college without debate.*

Under this new constitution, which inaugurated the Fourth Republic, Park was elected for a six-year term in December 1972, with a decisive legislative majority for his DRP. Soon the economy began to expand at a rapid rate. But Park's regime became increasingly repressive. Park said the measures he took were necessary to improve South Korea's position in the reunification talks with North Korea.

Harassment of People with Suspected Communist Ties

Ahn Hak-soo was falsely accused of being a North Korean defector in the 1960s and his family paid dearly for it. Choe Sang-Hun wrote in the New York Times: “During the Cold War, South Korea blacklisted families whose relatives ended up in North Korea, making sure that they did not advance in its staunchly anti-Communist society. Counterespionage agents surveilled them, often extracting false confession s through torture that they were in contact with their relatives in the North. [Source: Choe Sang-Hun, New York Times, May 29, 2020]

“After Hak-soo showed up in North Korea, Mr. Ahn’s father was forced to quit as a primary school principal. Mr. Ahn, then a teenager, was called “commie’s little brother” by his high school teachers. The Defense Security Command, the counterespionage arm of the military, had its undercover local office adjacent to his school. When Mr. Ahn was outside, he said, armed officials there would peek over the wall and hail him over for interrogation. “An agent put a pistol on my head and pulled the trigger,” Mr. Ahn wrote in “Whitewash and Truth,” a memoir he published in 2014. “It had a tremendous impact — as if my brain exploded in a terrible sound of death.”

“When Mr. Ahn became a primary schoolteacher in 1975, the agents appeared at his school in Seoul, interrogating and beating him in the janitor’s office. He was forced to resign five years later and sign a document telling him to keep quiet about what happened — or he would be punished for “an act that benefits the enemy.” Mr. Ahn has moved his family 31 times, but he said the agents followed him like “leeches.” In 1984, he flew to Britain to study divinity at the University of Aberdeen and later at Cambridge. Government agents showed up there, too — an incident so traumatic that Mr. Ahn had to curtail his studies and return home for medical treatment, a South Korean pastor who befriended him in London said in a signed statement submitted to courts.

“The Defense Security Command put Mr. Ahn’s family under surveillance until at least 1993, according to files from the organization, which was reorganized and renamed in 2018 as part of a reform of the once-infamous military spy agency.Mr. Ahn was thinking of emigrating abroad for good in 2008 when a reporter sent him a 380-page file of recently declassified Foreign Ministry documents that mentioned his brother’s name. In the documents, he found that his brother’s unit in Vietnam had hushed the disappearance for weeks. In the military file, the former spy, Kim Yong-kyu, was quoted as saying that Hak-soo “regretted defecting to the freedom-less North”“ and “was executed in 1975 after a failed attempt to flee the North through the border with China. Mr. Kim testified before a government panel in 2009, saying that North Korea lied when it said the soldier defected to the North. The panel ultimately ruled that Hak-soo was abducted, a ruling that forced the military to recognize him as its first P.O.W. in Vietnam.”

Protests Against Park Chung Hee Repression

On November 13, 1970, Chun Tae-il became a national martyr when he burned himself to death to protest Park's brutal crackdown on the free labor union movement. In 1973, Park responded to student demonstrations and a national petition for democracy by arresting hundreds of students, journalists, and churchmen. Students demonstrating against the yusin constitution were summarily incarcerated.

Students and intellectuals conducted a national campaign to revise the 1972 constitution in the fall of 1973. As the student campaign began to gather momentum, the president issued his first emergency decree in January 1974 outlawing all such campaigns. Successive emergency measures imposed further restrictions on other segments of society, but the harshest and most comprehensive restrictions were imposed by Emergency Measure Number Nine, issued in May 1975, which made it a crime either to criticize the constitution or to provide press coverage of such an activity, subject to a penalty of more than a year's imprisonment. Student participation in politics or coverage of student political activities in the press were subject to the same punishment. The president justified the harsh measures by citing the need for national unity in the face of an alleged threat of attack from North Korea. [Source: Andrea Matles Savada and William Shaw, Library of Congress, 1990*]

In March 1976, prominent political leaders, including former President Yun and presidential candidate Kim, issued the Democratic Declaration calling for the restoration of democracy. Park had them arrested and sentenced to five to eight years in prison. [Source: Andrea Matles Savada and William Shaw, Library of Congress, 1990*]

Kim Dae Jung's Challenges Park Chung Hee

During the brief period of democracy in 1961, Kim ran for the National Assembly and won. He said he was motivated by the "suffering of people caused by bad politics" under Syngman Rhee. But three days later Park Chun Hee seized power in a coup. He said he was motivated to become involved in politics by the "suffering of people caused by bad politics" under Syngman Rhee. Kim made a mark for himself during the Park Chung Hee era as a firebrand speaker and powerful dissident. The Guinness Book of World Record listed him as giving the longest speech (9 hours and 17 minutes before the Korean National Assembly). In 1967, he ran again and won after foiling election-rigging efforts by Park supporters.

As the military rule in South Korea stiffened, Kim emerged as a young leader of dissidents in parliament. John Gittings wrote in The Guardian: “In the elections of 1963, held by Park under US pressure, Kim won again and soon became spokesman for the Democratic party – later merged with others to form the New Democratic party (NDP). He denounced Park's plans to revise the constitution to serve a third term, and in 1971 became the NDP's presidential candidate...When Park declared the Yushin constitution in 1972, giving himself unlimited power for life, Kim sought support in the U.S. and Japan.” [Source: John Gittings, The Guardian, 18 August 2009]

Almost on a whim, Kim decided to run for president in 1971 and was stunned by the number of people that came to see him in Seoul. Park narrowly won, but some say only because he used a host of dirty tricks to steal it away from Kim, who took 46 percent of the popular vote. After that stunning election outcome, Park revised the Constitution to guarantee himself victory in future elections. The next year, Park declared martial law and Kim was constantly harassed by the KCIA (Park’s infamous intelligence agency) and Park's thugs.

A month after the 1971 elections Kim's car was rammed by a 14-ton truck and "flew into the air like a glider." Two people were killed but Kim survived, barely, and still walks with a limp from the injuries he sustained. Later the truck was traced to the government and most people feel that the KCIA and Park himself were probably involved in a plot to kill him.

Kim Dae Jung and the 1973 Kidnaping

In August 1973, Kim Dae Jung was kidnaped from a Tokyo hotel by the six KCIA agents who stuck a chloroform-soaked cloth in his mouth, blindfolded him, and tied him up. He was placed on a speed boat in Osaka and delivered to a freighter at sea. Out at sea, Kim was wrapped in a shroud and attached to concrete blocks as his captors prepared to throw him off a ship. "I thought I would die in three or four minutes," Kim later told Newsweek. “OK, my painful life would be over I told myself. Jesus Christ stood beside me. I gripped Jesus Christ's sleeve. I appealed: God I have so much to do for my people."

A couple of days after the kidnapping, he was dumped on the streets of Seoul near his house. The United States had reportedly been informed of the kidnaping and appealed to Park not to harm Kim. There were reports that a plane appeared near the ship as Kim was prepared to be thrown in the sea and dropped a flare as a warning, but this doesn’t appear to be true. It has also been said that just as he was about to be dropped in the sea a U.S. military helicopter made a low pass over the vessel. There were also reports that Henry Kissinger engineered the rescue. That is also not true. Most of the work was done by Philip Habib, who was then American ambassador in Seoul. On his own, he said the United States “deplored” the abduction and called it an “act of terrorism.”

Kim was kidnapped just days before he was to set up a coalition of Japan-based South Korean organizations to work for democratization in South Korea. Then 47, he was a serious challenger to Park's dictatorship. Jon Herskovitz of Reuters wrote: “Two years after his run for the presidency, Kim was abducted by South Korean secret agents. Chained and blindfolded, he suspected he was to be dumped in the sea and made to look like he died at the hands of North Korean agents. The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and Japanese officials learned of the plot and the United States sent a plane to find the boat. With the kidnappers caught in the act, Kim's life was spared and he was taken home and placed under house arrest. "He felt the Americans intervened to save his life. It was a key event in his life that also deepened his religious faith," said Michael Breen, author of "The Koreans." [Source: Jon Herskovitz, Reuters, Aug 18, 2009]

Upon returning to Seoul Kim wrote, “My wife received me with utter amazement. I limped through the door, slightly dazed and disoriented, with rope burns on my wrists and ankles.” His eldest son was in tears. He said, “Father, you’re not the only one responsible for our country. Why do you have to take everything on yourself.” Kim spent the next three years under house arrest, and somehow still managed to carry out pro-democracy activities which earned him an eight year prison term. He wasn't freed until after Park's assassination in 1979.

Park Chung Hee Approved the 1973 Kidnapping of Kim Dae Jung, Panel Finds

In 2007, a a government panel said that Park Chung Hee gave a tacit nod to a 1973 secret operation to kidnap Kim Dae Jung. The New York Times reported: “The fact-finding panel of the National Intelligence Service, the South Korean spy agency, also said that it could not rule out the possibility that the former president, Park Chung Hee, may have directly ordered the kidnapping of Kim, then his main political rival. "It is judged that there was at least an implicit permission" from Park, the panel said in its investigation report. [Source: New York Times, October 24, 2007]

“The report marked the first time the South Korean government had acknowledged any involvement by Park in the kidnapping, although many South Koreans have believed that the military-backed leader had been behind it. The NIS panel was set up in 2004 as part of a government drive to shed light on long-running suspicions involving the spy agency, which former authoritarian rulers of South Korea are accused of having used for political purposes including oppressing dissidents.

The panel, however, did not draw a clear conclusion on whether the kidnapping was ultimately aimed at killing Kim. Any U.S. role in Kim's survival was unclear. But Donald Gregg, a former U.S. ambassador who worked as an intelligence officer in Seoul at the time, was quoted as saying in a 1998 newspaper interview that the U.S. ambassador at the time had visited Park and asked for Kim's release.

The abduction briefly chilled South Korean relations with Japan. But Tokyo later agreed to a South Korean effort at a political settlement of the case, saying that it expected Seoul to get to the bottom of the incident. The fact-finding panel blamed Japan for cooperating with South Korea to cover up the kidnapping.

“Five Bandits” By Kim Chiha

According to Columbia University’s Asia for Educators: “The pattern of South Korean development under Park Chung Hee and his successor in the 1980s, Chun Doo-Hwan, met strong resistance from students, laborers, farmers, religious organizations, and others who felt that Korea’s export-led growth (often conditioned on cheap labor) benefited the wealthy, corporations, and the state while exploiting the majority of the populace. One famous poetic expression of discontent came in the form of a satirical poem, “Five Bandits” (Ojok), written by Kim Chiha (Kim Ji-ha, b. 1941) and published in 1970. Kim’s poem adopted stylistic features of p’ansori, a traditional mode of oral performance that often had its own ribald and satirical elements; such use of traditional folk culture would become central to oppositional movements by the 1980s. For this and other poems, Kim was arrested, imprisoned, and tortured as an alleged North Korean agent; later, in 1974, he would be sentenced to death for advocating rebellion, though he was eventually released because of heavy international pressure on the Pak government. [Source: :Asia for Educators Columbia University, ^^^ ]

One passage from “Five Bandits” (1970) By Kim Chiha goes: “The spring sun was warm, the day pleasant, the wind gentle, the clouds floating by. The five bandits, each brandishing a golf club, each determined to win, set out to display their miraculous skills. The first bandit stepped forth, the one called the business tycoon, wearing a custom.made suit tailored of bank.notes, a hat made of banknotes, shoes made of banknotes and gloves knitted of banknotes, with a gold watch, gold rings, gold buttons, a gold necktie pin, gold cuff links, a gold buckle, golden teeth, golden nails, golden toenails, and golden zippers, with a golden watch chain dangling from his wiggling ass. [Source: “Sources of Korean Tradition”, edited by Yong-ho Ch’oe, Peter H. Lee, and Wm. Theodore de Bary, vol. 2 (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000), 403-405; :Asia for Educators Columbia University, ^^^ ]

“Now the second bandit steps forth with his cronies from the National Assembly. Here come hunchbacks, alley foxes, angry dogs, and monkeys. Hunched at the waist, their eyes are as narrow and slanted as Ts’ao Ts’ao.1 Lumbering, rasping, covering their hairy bodies with the empty oaths of revolution, coughing up mucus, raising their golf clubs high into the sky like flags, thunderously yelling slogans, rolling on viper.colored jagged floors:
Revolution, from old evil to new evil!
Renovation, from illegal profiteering to profiteering illegally!
Modernization, from unfair elections to elections unfair!… [1 Ts’ao Ts’ao (155.220), Emperor Wu of Wei. Generalissimo and chancellor during the declining years of the Later Han dynasty; he was known for ruthlessness.]

“Now the third bandit emerges, looking like a rubber balloon with viperous pointed eyes, his lips firmly closed. Portraying a clean government official, when sweets are offered, he shows that he doesn’t like them by shaking his head. Indeed, it must be true. But look at this fellow’s other face. He snoops here and smiles there, stout, impudent, sly; his teeth are crooked and black from an over indulgence in sweets, worn out until they could decay no more.

“He sits in a wide chair as deep as the sea, before a desk as high as the sky, saying “no thank you” with one hand and “thank you” with the other. He cannot do possible things, but he can do impossible things; he has piles of documents on top of his desk and bundles of money under it. He acts like an obedient shaggy dog when flattering superiors, but like a snarling hunting dog to subordinates. He puts public funds into his left pocket and bribes for favors done into his right pocket. His face, a perpetual mask of innocence, conveys purity — the purity of a white cloud. His all.consuming passion is asking after the wellbeing of madams of deluxe restaurants.

“The fourth bandit steps forth, a big gorilla. He is tall, reaching almost to the heavens. The marching column of soldiers under his command is as long as China’s Great Wall. He has white tinted eyes, a tiger’s mouth, a wide nose, and a shaggy beard; he must be an animal. His breast is adorned with colorful medals made of gold, silver, white copper, bronze, and brass.

“Black pistols cling to his body. He sold the sacks of rice meant to feed the soldiers, and filled the sacks with sand. He stole the cows and pigs to be fed to the soldiers, and gave a hair to each man. No barracks for the poor enlisted men in a bitterly cold winter; instead, hard labor all day to keep them sweating. Lumber for the construction of barracks was used for building the general’s quarters. Spare parts for vehicles, uniforms, anthracite briquettes, monthly allowances, all were stolen. In accordance with military law, soldiers who deserted their units because of hunger and desperation were arrested, beaten and thrown into the brig, and harassed under orders. University students summoned for military service were assigned to the general’s quarters as living toys for his wanton wife. Meanwhile the general enjoyed his cleverly camouflaged life with an unending stream of concubines.

“Now the last bandit and his cronies step out: ministers and vice ministers, who waddle from obesity, sediment seeping from every pore. With shifty mucus.lined eyes, they command the national defense with golf clubs in their left hands, while fondling the tits of their mistresses with their right. And, when they softly write “Increased Production, Increased Export and Construction” on a mistress’s tits, the woman murmurs “Hee.hee.hee, don’t tickle me!” And they jokingly reproach: “You ignorant woman, do national affairs make you laugh?” Let’s export even though we starve, let’s increase production even though products go unsold. Let’s construct a bridge across the Strait of Korea with the bones of those who have starved to death, so we can worship the god of Japan! Like slave.masters of olden times, they drive the people to work harder and longer, with the beating of burst drums and the sounds of broken trumpets, with one aim in mind: to increase their own wealth.”

Pressure of the Park Chung Hee Regime

Force alone could not sustain the authoritarian system. Park's strongest defense against his critics had been the high rate of economic growth under his leadership. By 1978, however, the growth rate had begun to decline and inflation had become a serious problem. Seoul successfully weathered the first "oil shock" when Middle Eastern suppliers drastically raised prices in 1973, but was hard hit by the second shock in 1978-79. In December 1978, Park belatedly adopted a stabilization plan to cool down the economy, but the plan caused a serious recession, leading to a succession of bankruptcies and increased unemployment. [Source: Andrea Matles Savada and William Shaw, Library of Congress, 1990*]

The first overt manifestation of workers' discontent appeared in August 1979 with demonstrations by 200 women employees of the Y.H. Industrial Company, which had just gone bankrupt. Women workers occupied the headquarters of the opposition New Democratic Party and demanded the right to manage the company themselves. When the workers refused to obey the government's order to disperse, some 1,000 riot policemen raided the building. Pandemonium occurred, and one of the workers died — it was unknown whether she had jumped, was pushed, or was jostled to her death. Despite the government's efforts, the "Y.H. Incident" became a rallying cry of the opposition.*

Aside from the visible social unrest caused by political suppression and economic recession, the opposition camp had reason to become emboldened in its criticism of the government in 1979. Disaffection was particularly severe in urban areas. Although the New Democratic Party was suffering from internal dissension, it won a plurality in the December 1978 general elections for the National Assembly, the first general elections to be held since 1973. In the 1978 elections, the Democratic Republican Party won only 30.9 percent of the popular vote, a decline of 7.8 percent from 1973. In contrast, the opposition obtained 34.7 percent, an increase of 2.2 percent from 1973. Independent candidates won 27.2 percent of the vote (twenty-two seats in the National Assembly); fifteen of the twenty-two subsequently joined the New Democratic Party, although three were "persuaded" to switch to the government party. Because one-third of the National Assembly's members were government-appointed, the opposition could not command a majority.*

The new leader of the New Democratic Party, Kim Young Sam, began his challenge to the government in June 1979. He announced to the foreign press his readiness to meet with Kim Il Song, the North Korean president, to discuss matters relating to unification and delivered a scathing attack on the government in the National Assembly. He argued that the government had been in power too long and had been clearly discredited by the elections; that Emergency Measure Number Nine suffocated peoples' freedom and was clearly unconstitutional; that Seoul had colluded with hoodlums to assault the New Democratic Party headquarters and to harass him; that the suppression of human rights had become an international disgrace; that the people should be permitted to elect their own president through direct elections and be allowed to live without fear; and that a fair distribution of wealth should be permitted without government interference. The government immediately retaliated and ousted Kim from the National Assembly. In a show of solidarity, all opposition members of the National Assembly resigned on October 13, 1979.*

The Y.H. Incident and the harsh confrontation between the government and the opposition parties agitated the college students. Students in Taegu and Seoul staged campus rallies and demonstrations in September 1979. In mid-October, students in Pusan poured into the streets and clashed with police, leading the government to declare martial law in that city. In late October, students in Masan launched a demonstration; the government placed the city under "garrison decree." The army took over the responsibility for public order.*

Assassination Attempt Kills Park Chung Hee’s Wife

Several assassination attempts were made on Park Chung Hee. On January 21, 1968, a unit of 31 North Korean commandos attempted to infiltrate the presidential palace in Seoul and assassinate President Park Chung-hee. They were caught just 800 meters away from the palace. A fierce street battle erupted near the presidential palace. All but two of the North Koreans were killed. Three-one South Koreans were also killed. Two days later the USS Pueblo was seized. See Separate Article NORTH KOREAN INFILTRATORS, ASSASSINS, TERRORISTS AND ATTACKS INTO SOUTH KOREA

August 15, 1974,a North Korean agent fired at President Park Chung-Hee during a speech. He misses but shoots and kills Park’s wife. Park continues his speech. The attempt to assassinate Park occurred during a ceremony marking the 29th anniversary of the liberation from Japan. Park came close to being shot himself. Stray bullets killed his wife.

The assassin, 23-year-old Moon Se Kwang (Mun Se-gwang) — a South Korean resident in Japan — snuck into the National Theater where Park was giving a speech celebrating South Korea’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule. Moon, a North Korea sympathizer, entered South Korea using the passport of a Japanese man and carried a pistol stolen from a Japanese police station. Moon — a member of the pro-South Korea ‘General Association of Korean Residents in Japan’ — was arrested on the spot and executed four months later. [Source: New York Times- Kyodo]

South Korea blamed the Japanese government and held it at least morally responsible. Japan-South Korea ties were almost broken. The assassination also brought an end to dialogues between North and South Korea. Park responded to the incident by drafting a series of emergency measures; the harshest of these, Emergency Measure No. 9, issued in May 1975, provided for the arrest of anyone criticizing the constitution and banned all political activities by students.

After his wife’s death, Park became more reclusive and came to rely more and more on his chief bodyguard, Ch'a Chi-ch'ol, of the Presidential Security Force. Park became very depressed after his wife’s death. He later said he did not intend to serve indefinitely and said he often thought that had he decided not to stand for president in 1972, the life of his wife would have been spared. He withdrew and his rule became more repressive while Koreans called for more change.

Park Geun-hye, Park Chung Hee’s daughter and the future president of South Korea, was studying in Grenoble in France at the time of assassination. She returned to South Korea and played the role of her father's "First Lady" following the assassination in 1974 until Park Chung Hee’s own shooting death in 1979.

Assassination of Park Chung Hee

On October 26, Park Chung Hee’s luck finally ran out. He was killed in assassination orchestrated by the head of the KCIA, his own intelligence service. By this time after 18 years of his leadership during increasingly repressive rule many Korean were glad to see gone. The assassination may have been an attempted coup. Park was assassinated by KCIA director Kim Jae-gyu, who was later executed. Martial law was again imposed, and a period of relative calm followed as some of the more restrictive emergency decrees were lifted by Park's constitutional successor, the prime minister, Choi Kyu-hah, who promised a new constitution and presidential elections. [Source: “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations”, Thomson Gale, 2007]

Close Park associates such as Kim Jong Pil were reported to have counseled the president to meet some of the student demands and reduce repression, but were opposed by presidential security chief Ch'a Chi-ch'ol. Ch'a also sharply disagreed with Kim Chae-gyu, the director of the KCIA, who had counseled moderation in the government's handling of the student protesters. On October 26, 1979, the nation's most powerful figures, Park, Ch'a, and Kim Chae-gyu, met in a KCIA safe house restaurant for dinner to discuss, among other things, the Pusan situation. In the sharply divided discussion that followed, Kim gunned down Park, Ch'a, and their bodyguards. [Source: Andrea Matles Savada and William Shaw, Library of Congress, 1990]

After his death, Park Chung Hee was largely discredited. As time went on people began to appreciate what he done to help the economy and his stature rose. When Kim Dae Jung — Parks’s one time rival — became president he even praised Park and the contributions he made.

Film About Park Chung Hee’s Death Stirs Bitter Feelings in South Korea

Park Chung Hee remains South Korea’s most controversial figure.” Choe Sang-Hun wrote in the New York Times: In January 2005, South Koreans' feelings of fascination and detestation toward him were rekindled with the release of a new movie that infuriates Park's supporters. His family says the movie defames Park and is seeking a court injunction against it. "The President's Last Bang" — a violent yet comic recreation of Park's assassination on Oct. 26, 1979 — follows a series of major films that take unorthodox looks at the country's torturous modern history, marked by war, coups and confrontations with North Korea. [Source: Choe Sang-Hun, New York Times, January 27, 2005]

“In the movie, Park and his aides speak Japanese and drink over Japanese songs — a scene insulting to many Koreans, who harbor hatred toward Japan's colonial rule. Im Sang Soo, who directed the film, defends it as neutral:"I have no intention whatsoever of undermining a certain political group with my movie. Since this is a sensitive subject, I tried to be objective." Many South Koreans disagree. One man held a poster denouncing the movie at a Seoul theater where it was screened before an advance audience of 1,000 on Monday. Park's daughter said this week that "there are problems with the movie" and earlier accused the movie of making a comedy out of her father's death.

“Park's assassination had a perfect cast for a political thriller: A 62-year-old president growing detached from a public disenchanted with his authoritarian rule, a pop singer famous for her plaintive songs, an arrogant secret service head, a disgruntled spy chief, and a presidential chief of staff who saw the spy chief's dispute with the president's main bodyguard coming to a head but was too meek to intervene — all gathered for a drinking party.

“On the fateful night, the director of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency, Kim Jae Kyu, fatally shot Park and the chief presidential bodyguard, Cha Ji Chul. Im says much of the murder-scene detail in the movie, complete with profane insults, was "pure imagination." In the movie, Park says the best way to handle student demonstrators was to give them a "sound beating" and he buries his face in the bosom of his young female drinking partner.

Park and his aides loathe the U.S. president at the time, Jimmy Carter ("that blockhead peanut farmer"), for pushing for South Korean democracy, discuss building atomic bombs "even if we survive on weeds" and talk about "crushing 10,000 demonstrators with tanks."

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons.

Text Sources: South Korean government websites, Korea Tourism Organization, Cultural Heritage Administration, Republic of Korea, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Library of Congress, CIA World Factbook, World Bank, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, “Culture and Customs of Korea” by Donald N. Clark, Chunghee Sarah Soh in “Countries and Their Cultures”, “Columbia Encyclopedia”, Korea Times, Korea Herald, The Hankyoreh, JoongAng Daily, Radio Free Asia, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, BBC, AFP, The Atlantic, Yomiuri Shimbun, The Guardian and various books and other publications.

Updated in July 2021

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