Bitter pills, much concrete and puppet kingsApril 21, 1961
The first Korean woman to wear a judge’s robe, Hwang Yun-seok, was found dead on this date. Ms. Hwang had been a healthy 34-year-old. There was no suicide note. The only clue to her death was that Ms. Hwang and her husband each had taken two tablets of Benadryl, a pain-reliever and antihistamine, before they went to bed the night before.
The police from the start suspected murder. Ms. Hwang was a young and promising judge with a bright future ahead. The only trouble in her life was discord with her husband and mother-in-law.
The police suspected that Ms. Hwang may have been poisoned. When her husband gave inconsistent testimony and pretended to be in a coma, he became the No. 1 suspect. But the police could not find any evidence of poisoning, and released him.
Eight months later, however, the husband was once again accused by the police, this time of negligent homicide. The police felt that he had acted criminally in ignoring his wife, not helping her as she lay dying. He was pronounced guilty, but subsequently won an appeal.
Six years later, however, the National Institute of Scientific Investigation solved the mystery ― the cause of death was accidental poisoning. Ms. Hwang had taken a stimulant along with the Benadryl, and the combination killed her.
April 22, 1970
Have you ever wondered about the driving force of the miracle on the Han River? It stemmed from the Saemaeul (New Town) Movement, led by the former President Park Chung Hee, which started on this date.
President Park was having a meeting with provincial governors, discussing flood-control measures, when he came up with the idea of the Saemaeul Movement, with the motto “Diligence, Self-Help and Cooperation.”
The then-president arranged for sacks of cement to be sent to more than 30,000 villages, leaving the use of those sacks up to the villagers. For the 16,000 villages that successfully completed their flood-control projects, he laid out more support, encouraging people to take the initiative in improving their lives.
From these humble beginnings sprang a full-scale reformation program. Under the slogan of “Let’s make a good living,” the people started to mobilize, to work themselves out of poverty. The New Town Movement was the backbone of the amazing economic developments of the 1970s.
Unfortunately, the Park administration also grew into a military regime, revising the constitution to extend his presidency. But political considerations aside, one must recognize that without the New Town Movement, there could have been no such development.
April 25, 1926
Sunjong, both the last and the least fortunate king of the Joseon Dynasty, passed away on this date. Taking the crown at after the late King Gojong was dethroned by the Japanese colonization force, Sunjong was little more than a puppet.
With his son in custody in Japan, under the pretense of “studying abroad,” Sunjong was forced to acquiesce to Japan’s demands to the right to appoint government posts, break up the Korean army and allow the establishment of a colonization company.
by Chun Su-jin