Thanks for your response. I don’t think it as simple as you put it right there. Yes, I do agree with you that Park Chung Hee’s (PCH) administration was rife with human rights abuse, imprisonment of political adversaries, repressing freedom of the press, and even banning certain music (Fun fact: he composed a song that he mandated to be played on all radio stations. Check YouTube for this). But this does not discount the achievements he made when he was president during the 3rd Republic (1961–1972). During his time, he promoted heavy and chemical industries (HCI) which boosted the economy and inadvertently gave rise to the steel, electronics, and automobile industries that gave South Korea its Big Push that still exists till date. The HCI also accounted for more than 50% of the total export during that time. He also helped to normalize the cold relations between Korea and Japan then (PCH himself was once an Imperial Japanese Army officer, as he grew up under Imperial Japanese rule) and this helped Korea get access to a network of global trade and finance. Even his dealings with Japan were deemed traitorous as many of the victims from the decades-long Japanese occupation of Korea were still alive (e.g., the comfort women).

Despite all of his good deeds, like most despots, he became power hungry. And absolute power corrupts absolutely, which might explain why it was one of his ‘boys’ — a trusted confidante (they had been classmates together at the second class of Korea Military Academy) — Kim Jae Kyu, who assassinated PCB at what was supposed to be an intimate dinner event. And from what I read about this killing, Kim Jae Kyu was expecting some kind of reward for getting rid of PCB — like he thought he should be canonized as a hero.

So, PCH was definitely a conflicting character and I guess that it is very hard too for most South Koreans to sing fully of his praise without recoiling at all the atrocities he committed.

Not that this would help make my argument but it might also interest you to know that almost all of Korea’s past presidents have either been jailed, exiled, taken to court, or even committed suicide. So, yeah, those are my thoughts.

Thanks for reading!

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I'm ME: replete with the mien of a bard, scholar, Argonaut, Jesus-lover, funfinder, bibliophile, Koreanophile, partner, and wanderer!

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