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The assassination of Park Chung-hee, the former president of South Korea, occurred on October 26, 1979 at a secret house in the Cheong Wa Dae ("Blue House") compound connected with Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA) in Gungjeong-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea, at 7:41pm. It is simply known as "10.26" or the "10.26 incident" in South Korea.

The assassination of Park Chung-hee

October 26, 1979

Former President of Spouth Korea Park Chung-hee who was assasinated on October 26th 1979The assassination
KCIA director Kim Jae-kyu invited Park to a dinner at a KCIA building in the Cheong Wa Dae compound.

After Park and guests were seated, Kim Jae-kyu left the dining room to convene with his co-conspirators.

Kim reentered the room, pulled an automatic pistol, shot and killed the chief bodyguard of the president, Cha Ji-cheol, and then fired several shots at Park.

Upon hearing the shots, five armed KCIA agents stormed the room and adjacent rooms to kill two of the president's security detail and his driver. The weapon that was used for the assassination was Walther PPK.

KCIA conspirators
Kim Jae-kyu: Hanged on May 24, 1980
Park Heung-ju: Executed by firing squad on March 6, 1980
Park Seon-ho, a KCIA agent and a longtime friend of Kim Jae-kyu: Hanged on May 24, 1980
Yoo Seong-ok, a driver in the secret house: Hanged on May 24, 1980
Lee Ki-ju, head of secret house security service: Hanged on May 24, 1980
Kim Tae-won, secret house security agent: Hanged on May 24, 1980
Seo Young-jun, secret house security agent: Released after imprisonment

Kim Gye-won: chief secretariat
Sim Soo-bong: famous female singer
Shin Jae-soon: college student of Hanyang University

Possible motivations
Kim Jae-kyu testified in court:
“ I shot the heart of Yusin Constitution like a beast. I did that for democracy of this country. Nothing more nothing less.

The Park Chung Hee Regime in South Korea 

Park Chung Hee was born in 1917 in the village of Sonsangun near Taegu in southeastern Korea. He was the seventh child of a poor family; his father sometimes served as a magistrate under the Japanese occupation. Park won admission to high school through a competitive examination. After high school he taught school for a while before entering the Japanese army. He won admission to a two-year training program in Manchukuo, the Japanese puppet state in Manchuria, and graduated at the top of his class. Park was then selected for another two years of training at the Tokyo Military Academy. Park's experience with the Japanese government's program of economic development in Manchukuo strongly affected his thinking when he ruled South Korea. Park adopted the Japanese name Okamoto Minoru and was in many respect essentially Japanese.

Park's political ideology was mixed. After the end of World War II he participated in a communist cell organized within the South Korean army and was sentenced to death but gained a reprieve as a result of his cooperation with the authorities. Park served with distinction in the South Korean Army during the Korean War and became an expert at logistics. He received a year of special training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

In May of 1960, Park and a group of other officers of the South Korean army took control of the government. The U.S. government was uncertain of what had taken place in South Korea. There was strong suspicions that Park was a crypto-communist and the media sometimes referred to him as "Parkov," a Russianized version of his name. Although Park did not have affiliations with the communist movement, his thinking and ideological orientation was decidedly Stalinist. However his predeliction for central planning and autocratic control probably came from his experiences in the Japanese army. The Japanese army had no sympathy for notions of free markets and in Manchukuo undertook a Stalinist-style development program. Park's program for the economic development was modeled more on Meiji-era Japan than the Soviet Union.

One of the first things Park did after assuming power was to persecute South Korean business leaders for profiting from the corruption in the South Korean government. Twenty four of the leading businessmen were arrested. The founder of Samsung, Lee Byung Chull, escaped this treatment only because he was out of the country at the time. When Lee Byung Chull returned to Korea he met with Park and agreed to cooperate with Park's economic development program. Later Lee and other prominent business leaders offered to donate all or a substantial portion of their fortunes to the government. They ended up paying fines but not giving up their businesses. The Park regime morality campaign was probably less about corruption than asserting the traditional Confucian social system in which "merchants" had to recognize their status at the bottom of the social hierarchy. There was a campaign against foreign products such as cigarets and foreign cultural influences such as dancing.

Although the Park regime did not takeover all of the business holdings of those labelled "illicit profiteers," it did nationalize the banks. The motivation for this was to gain control of the flow of capital in the country so it could be directed into the sectors that the government wanted to develop.

Park set up three powerful agencies of oversee his development program:

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

There is an obvious similarity to the Japan's agencies for economic development. As in the case of Japan these agencies are important components of what might be called Korea, Inc. A fourth agency, the Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA), was the instrument of political control which went along with the centralization of economic decision-making.

One of the first projects of the Park regime was the building of the Seoul-Pusan highway. This highway connected the two largest cities of South Korea but at the time of its construction it served more of a symbolic purpose than a transportation need based upon benefits versus costs.

To achieve the industrialization of South Korea that he thought was necessary for defense and prosperity Park Chung Hee generally relied upon private businesses, the chaebol. But in some cases, notably the Pohang Iron and Steel Company (POSCO), Park chose to use public enterprises. In the case of steel he opted for a public enterprise only after years of the failure of private enterprise to develop a successful steel industry. The story of the success of POSCO under the direction of the general Park Tae Joon is told elsewhere. The story of enterprises such as Hyundai's shipbuilding is also told elsewhere. The important thing is that the Park regime initiated a successful program of industrialization for South Korea based upon export-oriented industries which were guided and aided by the government.

The next development of the Park strategy for the economic development of South Korea was the Heavy and Chemical Industries (HCI) Plan. This was a shift in orientation. The HCI Plan formulated in the early 1970's, in addition to calling for the development of heavy industries and chemical industries, involved a more centralized, import-substitution orientation of the economy. The HCI plan followed the creation of a new constitution, the Yushin Constitution, that increased the power of the government and suppressed political opposition. Although the HCI plan achieved increased industrialization it was at the cost of distorting the economy and ultimately the plan was a failure.

The regime of Park Chung Hee ended with his assassination by the head of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency. The assassination was apparently provoked by Park's demand that protests and riots currently occurring be suppressed "even if it cost 30,000 lives." Park Chung Hee was meeting with the top level leadership of South Korea in the headquarters of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA). He criticized the head of the KCIA, Kim Jae-kyu, for not completely suppressing the riots and protests in the Cholla region. Kim as head of the KCIA told Park that it would cost 3,000 lives to carry out that suppression. Park replied that he did not care if it cost 30,000 lives, he wanted it done. Another member of the Park regime supported Park's criticisms of Kim. Kim then went into a restroom where he retrieved a pistol hidden there. With the pistol concealed on his person, Kim returned to the meeting. He then said to Park, "Your Excellency, how can you govern the country with insects like this as part of your government?" He then pulled out the pistol and shot the other member of the group that has supported Park's criticisms of him. He then turned to Park and shot him in the head. Park did not die instantly but after a very short period.

The assassination was probably not pre-planned. The evidence for this is that Kim Jae-kyu did not have an escape arranged. When he fled the building he tried to escape by taking a taxi. He was captured and executed.

There had been an attempt to assassinate Park about five years earlier. At the time Park was was scheduled to give a public speech. His wife was with him on the platform. The assassin's shot missed Park and fatally wounded his wife. Park, ever disciplined, gave his scheduled speech despite the wounding of his wife. Park was probably more vigilant about his personal safety after that, but he would never had thought that Kim, his long time friend, would be a threat to him. With Park Chung Hee's assassination the technocrats in the government convinced Park's successors that the economic program would have to be revised and redirected.

Park Chung Hee

Mark L. Clifford, Troubled Tiger: Businessmen, Bureaucrats, and Generals in South Korea, M.E. Sharpe, Armonk, New York, 1994.
Park Chung Hee, To Build a Nation, Acropolis Books, Washington, D.C., 1971.
Park Chung Hee, The Country, The Revolution and I, Hollym Corporation Publishers, Seoul, Korea, 1970.
Park Chung Hee, Our Nation's Path: Ideology of Social Reconstruction, Hollym Corporation Publishers, Seoul, Korea, 1970.

Monday, Time Nov. 05, 1979
A Very Tough Peasant

''Remember, he was tough. Very, very tough. Even the opposition respected him and understood this.'' So said former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Richard Sneider last week about the man who made his poverty-afflicted country a model of economic development. Aloof, authoritarian and disdainful, Park Chung Hee demanded respect, not popularity. And that is what he got.

Park was born into a poor peasant family in 1917 near the city of Taegu.

After attending a village primary school and later a government-run teachers college, he became a smalltown teacher in 1937. Tiring of academic life, Park enrolled in military academies in Manchuria and Tokyo.

From 1910 until the end of World War II, Korea was a Japanese colony. Park, like other Korean officer candidates, was required to take a Japanese name (Masao Takagi) and an oath of loyalty to the Emperor.

After World War II and the division of his country, Park joined the new South Korean army. His rapid rise was briefly interrupted in 1948 when he was arrested on charges of being a Communist agent. Park was acquitted—after turning state's evidence against several of his fellow officers. During the Korean War, his aloofness set him apart from other generals of his country's army, who were known familiarly to their American colleagues by anglicized nicknames. Park, a puritanical loner, was always ''General Park.'' In 1961, a year after the ouster of Strongman Syngman Rhee, Park and four other generals seized power in a coup; two years later Park won the presidency by a narrow margin in a surprisingly free and fair election.

Park's main goal in office was to turn South Korea into a dynamic capitalist society on the Asian mainland, using Japan as a model. In this he succeeded. Since 1961, South Korea's per capita income has risen from $85 a year to around $1,500. South Korea now has a gross national product of some $50 billion (four times that of North Korea), and is a hard-bargaining rival to Japan in exports of steel, ships and textiles. New superhighways cut through the countryside; high-rise offices and apartments form towering sky lines in Korean cities. Rare among developing societies, South Korea has steered development capital to the countryside, so that rural Koreans live marginally better than their city cousins. In this, at least, Park Chung Hee did not forget the lessons of his childhood.

The country, however, paid a high price for economic progress: wages remained low, hours were long and factory workers had little, if any, union protection. Park brooked no opposition, either from his colleagues or his citizenry; he even altered the constitution with three "revitalizing" amendments that in effect turned the presidency into a near dictatorship. But not even the efficiency of his omnipresent Korean Central Intelligence Agency could prevent the growth of an opposition that included Christian church leaders as well as restless students. Park's repression proved embarrassing to Washington, especially after the election of Jimmy Carter and his emphasis on human rights.

A small man (5 ft. 4 in.), Park kept himself in military trim. He was a devout Buddhist, and reputed to be a moderate drinker who detested the Korean equivalent of geisha parties. Always austere and humorless, he grew even more introspective when his wife Yook Young Soo was killed during an assassination attempt on his own life in 1974. After the nine-day period of national mourning in South Korea, his body will probably be buried next to her grave, in Seoul's National Cemetery.

See also
The root causes of terrroism
Korea's Dr. Strangelove

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