Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Park Chung Hee
|Park Chung Hee|
|Revised Romanization||Bak Jeong-hui|
Park was born in Gumi (구미), a small town in North Gyeongsang province near Daegu, South Korea. Park graduated from the Japanese Manchurian military academy in 1944. Park led a military coup which overthrew the incumbent civilian government in 1961. Following pressure from the Kennedy administration, a civilian government was restored, with Park winning the election in 1963, and he served as the 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th president of South Korea.
Although Park is generally credited as playing a pivotal role in the development of South Korea's economy by shifting its focus to export led industrialization, his authoritarian tendencies were unpopular. His rule saw the rise of the jaebeol, a family company system similar to the Japanese zaibatsu. These companies include Hyundai, LG, Samsung and others.
In 1965, he normalized diplomatic relations with Japan. This move was highly unpopular, causing widespread unrest as memories of World War II exploitation were still fresh in both Koreas. However by dropping the South Korean demand for war reparations and apologies in exchange for investment Park allowed Japanese capital to flow into the country.
Despite his dictatorial rule and the high growth that occurred during his years in power, Park displayed admirable honesty, never seemingly tempted to enrich himself like so many other despots. Indeed, he considered it important that his lifestyle be an austere one if he was asking his countrymen and women to sacrifice for future prosperity. He wore simple suits, mixed his rice with barley to save on rice and had bricks placed in the toilet of his official residence to conserve water.
After almost a decade in power since 1963 under an electoral system that saw Park just barely squeeze through a tight presidential election in 1971 against Kim Dae-jung, Park introduced the Yusin Constitution in 1972 that effectively transformed his presidency into a legal dictatorship. This move alienated many segments of South Korean's population.
On August 15, 1974 a botched assassination attempt by North Korean agent Moon Se-gwang (문세광, 文世光) claimed his wife Yuk Yeong-su 's life instead. Park himself was assassinated on October 26, 1979 by Kim Jae-kyu, the director of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency and long-time friend.
- BBC News' "On this day" - a recollection of Park's assassination.
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