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Park Kun-hye - The new leader of the Grand National Party
Like daughter, like father - Park Jung-hee: Korea's Hitler and Triple Turncoats?
Lee Wha Rang
The Grand National Party (GNP), the dominant opposition party of Korea, elected Park Kun-hye its new leader. Park is the eldest daughter of Park Jung-hee, the military dictator of South Korea for nearly two decades, the chief military officer of the Communist Party of South Korea, and the loyal soldier of Emperor Hirohito. GNP's fortune began to decline when its former chief and presidential candidate, Lee Hoe-chang, lost out to a young upstart Roh Moo-hyun in a close election last year. After a series of unpopular moves, GNP committed a major blunder last month when it engineered Roh's impeachment, which was a wrong move at a wrong time.
A general election is scheduled for April 15th and the voters will be electing new members to the National Assembly. GNP's impeachment vote is opposed by some 70% of the voters and it is widely anticipated that the GNP won't be 'grand' any more after the election. The GNP bosses had realized belatedly their predicament and elected Miss Park in a last ditch effort to avoid a total collapse of the Party. Soon after her election, Park moved out of the old GNP office building and set up a tent for her new Party office in an apparent effort to distance herself from the old GNP.
Park's fame is, of course, her lineage. After her mother, Yook Yeong-soo, was killed on August 15, 1973, she became the First Lady and got exposed to the dark world of politics at a tender age. Ironically, her mother meddled in her husband's affairs, and the couple openly fought viciously in the open. Her father felt that politics had no room for women, but her mother believed otherwise.
Photo: Park Jung-hee and Park Kun-hye in 1978 (circa)
Her mother's sudden death was an emotional trauma to her father, who became moody and blunt. He drank heavily and engaged in frequent drunken sex orgies with young girls. He had become morose and irascible even to his loyal followers. He lost his ability to make rational decisions and relied on his close cronies for state policies. Of the cronies and sycophants that surrounded him, his chief bodyguard, Cha Ji-chul, was the most influential.
Park Jung-hee's popularity plunged dramatically, and the students and workers staged anti-Park demonstrations all over the nation. It was an open secret that Park and his relatives took in bribes by the millions. His peace treaty with Japan for a nominal sum, his brutal suppression of political opponents, his plan to become a lifetime president, and so on, had angered the Korean people. Park declared martial law in Pusan and Masan and arrested the dissenters by the thousands. Park thought that - "The demonstrators in Pusan are just beggars, hoodlums and poorly educated workers", and his chief bodyguard recommended "..mow them down with tanks, whether they are students or that infernal party."
Not all cronies of Park saw things from Park's point of view. Kim Jae-gyu was the head of the Korean Intelligence Agency ("KCIA") and the most powerful man after Park's chief bodyguard. Kim Jae-gyu was a close friend of Park Jung-hee and the most trusted comrade in arms since the 1950's. Kim believed that the students and workers had just causes for their unhappiness and that something had to be done before things got out of hand. His solution was to kill Park Jung-hee and his chief bodyguard and mentor, Cha Ji-chul.
Kim Jae-gyu invited Park and Cha to a dinner party on October 26, 1979. Being well aware of Park's fondness of fresh young girls, Kim had two pretty coeds as baits to entice Park to the party. Park sat between the girls, who tended to his needs. After the dinner, Park started drinking and singing with the girls, when all of a sudden, Kim Jae-gyu stood up, pulled out a pistol and shot Cha. Cha, wounded only slightly, ran into the restroom, screaming "Guards, guards!". A few seconds later, Kim shot Park but Park was still alive. Kim pulled the trigger again but the gun failed to fire, upon which he ran out of the room to get another gun.
Photo: Kim Jae-gyu reenacting his fatal shot at Park Jung-hee. One of Park's party girls was holding his head on her lap when Kim pumped a bullet into Park's head.
Meanwhile, a Hellish pandemonium broke out. Kim's supporters shot and killed Park's guards in the staff dining room and in the parking lot. Shots rang out all over the CIA compound and the wounded and dying screamed for help. Kim grabbed a gun and went back to finish his job. Kim saw Cha coming out of the bathroom and shot him dead, after which he calmly strolled over to where Park sat. One of the girls had Park's bloody head on her lap and was trying to stop the bleeding with her bare hand. Kim pumped a shot into Park's head. In this way, Kim Jae-gyu succeeded in killing Park and Cha.
Kim Jae-gyu believed that Park would take Cha's advice and order his troops to kill the student demonstrators. Cha once told Park that the Khmer Rouge killed millions of people in Cambodia in order to consolidate its grip on power, and that Park should do the same. Kim Jae-gyu acted to prevent further bloodsheds in Korea.
South Korea's economic boom is often ascribed to Park Jung-hee, but the truth of the matter is that the United States was the primary cause of the boom. The United States forced Japan to settle up with South Korea for Japan's exploitation of Korea. Park Jung-hee settled for a pittance for Korea's loss and suffering. The 'compensation' money from Japan helped jump-start Korea's war-torn economy.
The United States fueled Korea's economy further by outsourcing Vietnam war-related manufacturing, services, and construction jobs to Korean companies. Hundreds of millions of American dollars poured into Korea. Uncle Sam's generosity was not free. Some 300,000 Koreans served in Vietnam, and over 3,000 died there fighting the Viet Gong. It was this blood money that started Korea's economic boom, and Park Jung-hee had little to do with the boom. Park happened to be at the right place at the right time for the boom.
Park Jung-hee was a devout servant of Emperor Hirohito of Japan during World War II. Park attended the Japanese Imperial Military Academy and served in China. Upon Hirohito's surrender, he became an ardent Communist in South Korea. Park's elder brother was also a Communist. Park became a key military leader of the Communist Party which instigated the Yosu Mutiny of 1948. Park was arrested and sentenced to die, but his life was saved after he recanted Communism and snitched on his comrades. Several hundreds of his former associates were put to death - thanks to Park Jung-hee.
Photo: Park Kun-hye, the daughter of a pro-Japanese collaborator and Kim Jung-il, the son of an anti-Japanese fighter, meet in 2003. Kim Jung-il is said to be weird but not dumb. Why did he give her a royal reception? What were his motives?
He became an ardent anti-Communist and steadily climbed the army ladder of power. In 1960, the people of Korea toppled the corrupt dictatorship of Rhee Syngman. Park Jung-hee saw a power vacuum and mounted a coup in 1961. His brutal dictatorship lasted until his death in 1979. During his reign of terror, tens of thousands of progressive Koreans were put to death by Park's goons.
Can Park Kun-hye reshape the Grand National Party in the image of her father and save it from a total collapse? Can she shake her father's image as a Communist turncoat? As a pro-Japanese collaborator? The oncoming general election of April 15th may answer these questions.
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