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Gumi, South Korea
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Gumi, South Korea

Park Chung-hee was a South Korean general who was assassinated after assuming the office in a coup. He served as President of South Korea for 16 years. He is regarded as one of South Korea’s most successful leaders, having guided the country toward becoming an economic giant. His reign saw great economic prosperity across the country, but at the sacrifice of political freedom and civil liberties. He was born into a humble household and began his career as a teacher. He later joined the Manchukuo Imperial Army and served in World War II’s latter stages. Park served as the brigadier general of the South Korean army during the three-year conflict between North Korea and South Korea after the country gained independence. As a commander, he orchestrated a coup that resulted in the overthrow of the Second Republic. He was elected as the first president of the Third Republic after temporarily ruling South Korea as a junta leader. Following years of totalitarian control by Park Chung-hee, Kim Jae Kyu, the chief of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency and a close associate of Park Chung-hee, killed him.

His Childhood and Adolescence

Park Chung-hee was born in the industrial city of Gumi in Korea, which was then governed by the Japanese, on November 14, 1917, parents Bek Nam-eui and Park Sung-bin. He had two sisters and five brothers who were all older than he was.

Chung Hee was an averagely intelligent student who, after graduation, earned a job as a schoolteacher in Mungyeong-elementary eup’s school. Colonel Arikawa of the Japanese Imperial Army, a drill coach at the same school where Park taught, assisted him in enrolling at the Changchun Military Academy of the Manchukuo Imperial Army.

When Park enrolled at the Changchun Military Academy, the 2nd Sino-Japanese War had already begun. He excelled in his military training, finishing first in his class and impressing his Japanese instructors, who sent him to the Imperial Japanese Army Academy in Tokyo in 1942 for advanced training.

Park became a lieutenant in the Manchukuo Imperial Army after graduating third from the Imperial Japanese Army Academy. During WWII, he worked as an intelligence agent and gathered information about Korean militia operating in the Manchurian region as an aide-de-camp to a regimental commander.

Early on in your career

Park Chung-hee returned to Korea after WWII ended and enrolled in the Korean Military Academy. He was hired as an officer in the US Military Government’s law enforcement section in South Korea after graduation in 1946.

Park was arrested by the South Korean government, led by Syngman Rhee, on charges of heading a communist movement, which was never proven. At the request of several top military officers, his death sentence was later reduced to mere imprisonment. He was, however, discharged from the service.

Chung Hee was reinstated as a major in the South Korean Army when the Korean War began. He was promoted to colonel after a few years and sent to the Army Headquarters Intelligence Bureau as deputy director. In 1953, the ‘Korean Armistice Agreement’ proclaimed the end of the conflict.

Park left for the United States after the war between North and South Korea ended in 1953 to complete military training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. He was promoted to Chief of the Artillery School upon his return to South Korea.

He was promoted to major general in 1958, and was appointed Chief of Staff of the Army of the First Republic in 1959. Under the Second Republic, he gradually rose through the ranks to become deputy commander of the army.

Military Takeover and Ascension to Power

Syngman Rhee, the first president of independent South Korea, was deposed and exiled on April 25, 1960, due to his brutal leadership. However, a hastily formed democratic government that took office three months later failed to bring South Korea back to any sort of normalcy.

A chaotic and shaky coalition administration led by the Democratic Party was unable to preserve peace and order, and the voters eventually lost faith in it. In 1961, Major General Park Chung-hee formed the ‘Military Revolutionary Committee’ in order to stage a coup.

The military coup launched by Major General Park in 1961 resulted in the deposition of President Yun’s democratic government, effectively ending the Second Republic. Park was elected chairman of the ‘Supreme Council for National Reconstruction,’ which was made up of military officers who had endorsed the coup d’état.

As President of the Republic of Korea,

Park took over as acting president after President Yun resigned in 1962. Park was elected president of the Third Republic as the leader of the newly formed Democratic Republic Party in presidential elections conducted on October 15, 1963.

Ex-President Yun, who ran under the Civil Rule Party banner, was defeated by a razor-thin margin of only 1.5 percent. In 1967, Park Chung-hee was re-elected President for a second term, defeating challenger Yun by a large majority.

Park Chung-hee attempted to restore diplomatic relations with Japan, and as a result, Japan increased its investment in South Korea. He also attempted to improve relations with the United States, negotiating a deal with the country that would eliminate the threat of North Korean attacks.

Chung Hee sent foot soldiers to Vietnam after the Vietnam War broke out in 1965. Instead of sending 3,20,000 troops to Vietnam to fight as an ally, the South Korean government received aid from the US in the form of subsidies, loans, technology transfers, and grants.

Park Chung-hee worked to normalize and improve tense relations with North Korea. North Korea, on the other hand, did not respond in kind as it stepped up its infiltration campaign into its southern neighbor. Multiple armed conflicts between the two Koreas occurred between 1966 and 1969.

An assassination attempt on Park by North Korean People’s Army commandos on January 21, 1968, came close to succeeding. In retribution, Chung Hee organized ‘Unit 684,’ which was tasked with assassinating Kim II-Sung, the North Korean leader. ‘Unit 684,’ on the other hand, was demobilized two years later.

Despite the hostilities, both South and North Korea attempted to negotiate reunification. In 1972, the terms and conditions of reunification were published in a notification. Both countries made a commitment to achieve union without the use of military force or interference from outside powers.

Chung Hee is widely regarded as the architect of modern South Korea, having set the country on the path to rapid economic growth and establishing it as one of Asia’s four tiger economies. He emphasized the development of the country’s basic infrastructure by encouraging the establishment of heavy industries through public-private partnerships.

Park’s economic strategies emphasize the development of an industrialized economy with a strong export emphasis. South Korea not only caught up to its northern neighbor in terms of economic progress and military might in a short period of time, but also gradually surpassed it.

Chung Hee’s unwavering commitment to enacting broad-based economic reform policies resulted in the country’s overall development. He played a key role in the phenomenal transformation of numerous smalltime domestic firms and businesses into ‘chaebols,’ or ‘conglomerates,’ two of the most notable of which are ‘Samsung’ and ‘LG.’

Some of Park’s domestic policies, on the other hand, were roundly criticized by the public, the opposition, and even some members of his Democratic Republican Party. One such policy was to amend the original Constitution to allow the president to run for three elections in a row.

The Years Leading Up to the Assassination

In the 1970s, the vehicle of economic growth that Park pioneered, which was important in the nation’s overall development and also supported his administration for one and a half decades, began to slow. His administration, which started out democratic, veered toward authoritarianism as freedom of the press and expression were curtailed.

On the 15th of August 1974, Park was shot at while speaking to the crowd at Seoul’s National Theater to honor the country’s 29th year of independence. The assassin, a North Korean loyalist, missed the President by a whisker, but one of his bullets killed Yuk Young-Soo, the President’s wife.
Yuk Young-Soo Park, Park’s wife, was killed by a gunshot on August 15, 1974. Park was devastated by his wife’s untimely death, and he kept a notebook to record his sadness and personal loss.

There was a nationwide call to repeal the Yushin Constitution, which Park drafted and used to legitimize his autocratic rule. The demonstrations and protests became increasingly violent, forcing Park to declare martial law, which resulted in workers and students looting the ruling party’s buildings and police stations.

Kim Jae-Gyu, the director of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA), shot Park Chung-hee after a banquet in Seoul on October 26, 1979. On November 3, 1979, Park Chung-hee was given a state funeral and buried at the Seoul National Cemetery.

Personal History and Legacy

Park Chung-hee married Kim-Ho-nam, but they eventually divorced. He married Yuk Young-Soo, a landlord’s daughter. Yuk Young-Soo was killed in a plot to assassinate Park Chung-hee in 1974. Park’s first wife gave him a daughter, and his second wife gave him a son and two daughters.

Park remains one of South Korea’s most divisive presidents, with praise for his groundbreaking economic policies on the one hand and condemnation for his domestic policies and dictatorship on the other.

Estimated Net Worth

Park Chung-hee is one of the wealthiest World Leaders and one of the most beloved. Park Chung-net hee’s worth is estimated to be $1.5 million, according to Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.