U.S. shows hit the tube, drumbeats end, spy comes cleanSept. 15, 1957
American Forces Network Korea first aired a TV program on this date. Launching with taped shows that were four hours in length, the TV station turned out to be a huge hit and soon enlarged its scope to provide live broadcasts.
The station was established after the outbreak of the Korean War, which ended in 1953. Its predecessor, a radio broadcast that began operating out of the U.S. Embassy a few months after the war’s close, debuted with a message from U.S. Army General Douglas MacArthur’s to Kim Il-sung, North Korea’s leader, to surrender. The TV station’s task was providing information on the battlefield to United Nations forces. After the war, however, AFN moved to the U.S. Army’s Yongsan garrison in central Seoul. With Yongsan as its hub, AFN Korea had 15 local networks spanning the southern part of the peninsula. Some Koreans voiced concern that AFN gained too much prestige, but at the same time, Koreans as well as Americans benefited from the station. To this day, many English language institutes’ textbooks are based on AFN Korea shows.
Sept. 15, 1401
King Taejong of the Joseon Dynasty (1392 to 1910) wanted to know what his subjects were thinking. Inspired by the Chinese, the king decided to put a drum on his premises on this date. He asked that anyone with complaints or suggestions should come and beat the drum. Upon hearing the beating sound, the king would invite the claimant into the palace and lend him an ear.
The drum was called Sinmungo, and it’s no surprise that it became an instant hit. As people constantly swarmed in from all over the country, an atmosphere of chaos emerged, mirroring people’s hardships. Frustrated, the king decided to restrict topics of discussion only to those that were mortifying. As time went by, the drum’s relevancy lessened; drum beaters were overwhelmingly officials from the capital. The system was abolished midway through the Joseon Dynasty but resurrected later.
Sept. 20, 1976
Geomundo, an island in the South Sea, has long been the target of invasions. In the early 20th century, British troops took over. After the Korean War, it was discovered that North Korean spies had turned the island into a base camp for secret missions.
Kim Yong-gyu, then a 40-year-old spy from the North, gave himself up to South Korean police on this date after shooting his comrades. Mr. Kim had been spying for the North for nine years, manipulating islanders to his benefit. He goaded farmers and fishermen on the island to provide him with South Korean identification and a military uniform worn by South Korean soldiers. When Mr. Kim came clean, the islanders were trapped in his net as well.
Though born a South Korean, Mr. Kim went over to the North, where he became a high-ranking official overseeing spying missions on the South. Kim Il-sung, the North’s leader at the time, bestowed a number of medals and citations on Mr. Kim.
But his South Korean roots bothered him; Mr. Kim cited this factor in explaining his denunciation.
by Chun Su-jin