[THIS WEEK IN HISTORY]A cult leader falls, a spy is exposed and a coup succeedsDec. 11, 1996
Kim Gi-sun said she was chosen by God and called herself The Baby, to symbolize her innocence. She said she had to save the world. But she ended up arrested on this date on a murder charge.
In the early 1990s, Ms. Kim started a religion and pressured the followers to live at a farming commune in a secluded area in Icheon, Gyeonggi province, which she called Baby Hill. Followers were told to give her all they owned. The biggest holiday for the cult was the leader's birthday -- the faithful would have a big feast and Ms. Kim would appear in a gaudy costume. Ms. Kim was intolerant of dissent. If believers disobeyed, they were locked up, starved and beaten. A young woman at the commune got the treatment after going out on a date with Ms. Kim's son. Eventually, the young woman disappeared, and news of the mystery leaked outside. The Baby was arrested on suspicion of tax evasion and murder. In court, she denied being the leader of a religion, and was cleared of the charges. But the community, which still exists, ostracized her. The Baby, now 62, is in hiding.
Dec. 12, 1996
A North Korean spy, Jeong Su-il, was arrested on this date thanks to a sharp-eyed hotel clerk. In July 1996 at the Plaza Hotel in downtown Seoul, a foreign man asked a clerk to send a fax overseas. The clerk recognized the man's face from montages of wanted men provided by the National Intelligence Agency. She dialed a wrong number into the fax machine, then asked a policeman nearby for help. That tip led to Mr. Jeong's arrest.
Mr. Jeong came to the South in 1984, with the identity of a Lebanese national, Muhammad Kanssu. A learned man, Mr. Jeong was fluent in 10 languages and sociable. In 1988, he became a history professor at Dankook University in Seoul. He even married a local woman, never revealing his true identity to anyone.
After being caught, Mr. Jeong got 15 years in prison; but he was granted amnesty four years later after renouncing his ties to the North. While in prison, he translated a record of Silk Road travels written in the 14th century and other classics of history. He is now 68 and lives in Seoul.
Dec. 12, 1979
The country was in a leadership crisis after President Park Chung Hee was assassinated the previous October. The power struggle was focused on Chun Doo Hwan, the chief of the army's security command, and Jeong Dong-hwa, the army chief of staff. Mr. Chun accused Mr. Jeong of collaborating with Mr. Park's assassin, and on this date had military security forces arrest Mr. Jeong. Mr. Chun occupied the Defense Ministry and army headquarters. The plan succeeded and Mr. Chun assumed the presidency the following year. Koreans call this the "12-12 incident."
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