Perky coffee, the ultimate defiance and dogged reportersSept. 12, 1898
King Gojong was the first Korean coffee enthusiast. On this date, however, his love for the black liquid nearly killed him. The king tasted his first drop of coffee in 1896, at the Russian Embassy in Seoul, where he took shelter after the assassination of his queen by the Japanese. The coffee had both a soothing and an addictive effect on the king. After returning to his palace the following year, he got into the habit of drinking coffee. He even built a salon in his palace where he invited ministers to discuss national affairs over the beverage.
One day, the king noticed a strange scent from his brew. Suddenly, his crown prince fell to the ground, coughing up blood. The king soon discovered that the coffee had been poisoned by Kim Hong-ryuk, one of his subjects. For years, during his refuge at the Russian Embassy, the king favored Mr. Kim as his translator. Mr. Kim abused this power to accept bribes. A month before the poisoning, Mr. Kim’s misdeeds had been discovered and he had been banished to a forlorn isle. Unprepared and unwilling to give in, Mr. Kim enticed the court cooks who brewed the king’s coffee to add the poison. Mr. Kim was executed for treason.
Sept. 12, 1916
Na Cheol, a promising young statesman, resigned from his post after learning of Japan’s attempt to colonize his beloved country. He founded an underground independence movement in 1904, and attempted to assassinate five Korean government officials by sending them gift boxes containing bombs. The conspiracy was soon detected and Mr. Na was exiled, only to be pardoned by the king and released the following year.
Mr. Na then changed direction from politics to religion, and established Daejonggyo, a religion that worships Dangun, the legendary founder of the Korean people. As a religious leader, he did not give up his political views completely. Rather, his religion played a crucial role in the independence movement, drawing more than 20,000 followers. In 1910, when the Joseon Dynasty was taken over by Japan, Mr. Na’s religion suffered an oppressive crackdown. One day he claimed, “Starting today, I will fast for three days for spiritual discipline,” followers found Mr. Na dead in his room on this date. Mr. Na took his own life; a suicide note deplored the Japanese colonial government’s despotism.
Sept. 13, 1955
In the years after the Korean War, the central government monitored everyone, including the media. Writing anything directed against the government brought retaliation. On this date, the Daegu Maeil newspaper dared to publish an editorial by Choi Seok-chae that demanded the government stop involving middle and high school students in government ceremonies. The following day, the newspaper got some uninvited guests: two politicians with 20 young men, who demolished the paper’s printing system.
The newspaper managed to publish the following day’s issue, however, with the help of the Catholic Publishing House. They reprinted Mr. Choi’s critical editorial, and condemned the two politicians as terrorists. Mr. Choi was soon arrested for violating the National Security Law, but was found not guilty the following year by the Supreme Court.
by Chun Su-jin