[FOUNTAIN]An eye on the guardsThe plot thickens in the television drama “Muin Sidae” (The Age of Warriors) as soldiers who took over the state in a coup d’etat now vie among themselves for power. Based on the history of the Goryeo dynasty in the 10th through 14th centuries, the power clash in the drama between the older generals led by Jeong Jung-bu and the younger Lee Ui-bang and Lee Go, the king’s escort warriors, resembles that between graduates of the fifth class and the eighth class of the Korea Military Academy. After the May 16, 1961 coup d’etat, Park Chung Hee emerged as the ultimate victor and president.
The winner of the fight in the drama and in history is the iron club-wielding Lee Ui-bang, who ruled the country for four years before being killed by Jeong Jung-bu’s son, Jeong Gyun. Jeong Jung-bu ruled next for five years before bowing out to Gyeong Dae-seong, who died abruptly. His successor, Lee Ui-min, is depicted as being skilled with his axe in the drama and is recorded in history as a two-meter (6 feet-6 inch) giant who killed King Ui-jong by snapping his waist with his bare hands. Lee Ui-min, the son of a slave, ruled for 13 years before Choi Chung-hyeon ended the bloodshed.
Park Chung Hee was also killed as a result of the tyranny of Cha Ji-cheol, the chief of his guard force. Second in power, Mr. Cha would call senior government officials to the drill ground of the guards at Gyeongbok palace every Friday for a pep talk. With only one exception, the chief of the presidential guards has always come from a military background since President Park’s time. The exception was former President Kim Young-sam’s chief guard, Park Sang-bum, who survived four bullet wounds during the assassination of President Park Chung Hee in 1979.
The new presidential secret service chief is Kim Se-ok, the former commissioner-general of the National Police Agency. Mr. Kim’s appointment was a surprise to most because this is the first time in 40 years, since President Syngman Rhee’s time, that a police official has been appointed to the post. President Rhee’s chief of guards, Kwak Yeong-ju, was executed in 1961 for ordering the police to fire on protesters in the April 19 students’ uprising that finally ousted Mr. Rhee.
Ultimately, the guard chief’s professional pedigree is not important. In the United States, the Secret Service is a part of the Department of the Treasury.
by Noh Jae-hyun
The writer is a deputy international news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.