[THIS WEEK IN HISTORY]A face of stone, a face of democracy and a face of realityJan. 14, 1996
A stone monument at a temple in South Gyeongsang province sweated two liters of salty water over six hours on this date. The Pyochung Monument at Hongjesa temple started emitting thick beads of water from its head at 1 p.m., and the fluid kept streaming until 7. It was not the first time this monument had broken a sweat; it was the 15th, give or take. The stone sweated more than 60 liters in the days leading up to the Korean War in 1950, observers said. Locals say the monument portends significant events.
The stone carving was created in 1738 to commemorate the loyal and brave Reverend Samyeong, who fought against the Japanese invasion in 1592. Despite the supernatural speculations of the locals, scientists have a rational explanation for the sweating sculpture. Geologists say the igneous rock the monument is carved in is rich in iron and tends to withhold moisture; the water is released, they say, if the temperature suddenly drops more than 5 degrees centigrade.
Jan. 14, 1987
Park Jong-cheol, a bright 22-year-old student, died in police custody on this date after being tortured. A linguistics major at Seoul National University, Mr. Park's true passion was democracy. He was arrested on Jan. 13 for participating in demonstrations against the military government of Chun Doo Hwan. By noon the following day, he was dead.
The police announced that Mr. Park had died from shock, saying all they did was snap him down on the table and he suddenly died. But doctors performing an autopsy said Mr. Park had been tortured with water and electricity. The news of Mr. Park's death followed the charges made by another activist, Kwon In-sook, that she had been subjected to sexual torture by police. A huge protest movement sprang up, culminating in the historical June Resistance, when thousands of people of all stripes filled central Seoul, calling for an end to the dictatorship.
Jan. 18, 1994
Moon Ik-hwan, a minister and a socialist who bravely traveled to North Korea to meet Kim Il-sung, died on this date. Born in 1918, Mr. Moon was independent-minded even as a teenager -- he was once expelled from school for refusing to respect a Japanese shrine. Later he went to the United States and majored in theology at Princeton University.
Returning to Korea as a pastor, he became politically active. He gained fame for his eloquence, which he used to stir up street demonstrations. He was arrested a few times for his activities, serving short terms. In March 1987 he traveled to North Korea at the invitation of Pyeongyang and met twice with the North's dictator, Kim Il Sung. Back in South Korea, he was jailed for the illegal trip, and wasn't released until 1993. The following year he died of a heart attack. He left three sons behind. The youngest, Moon Seong-geun, is an actor who also has a political bent. He worked actively on President-elect Roh Moo-hyun's election campaign.
by Chun Su-jin