Carnage at a tomb, an ugly mugging and a tortured teenOct. 9, 1983
Tardiness saved President Chun Doo Hwan on this date. As his motorcade approached Rangoon to visit the tomb of Aung San, the Burmese nationalist leader, Mr. Chun saw a column of smoke coming from the direction in which he was headed. The smoke was more ominous than what the Korean president might have imagined at the time. Members of his government had gathered near the tomb to greet the president. They lost their lives in what turned out to be a North Korean terrorist attack.
Two North Korean agents, Captain Gang Min-cheol and a major identified only as Jin, stole into the tomb site in the early morning hours on the day of Mr. Chun’s visit. They planted two bombs. The agents planned to assassinate the Korean president, exploding the bombs by remote control. Seventeen Seoul officials and journalists from the South were killed. The victims included Vice President Seo Seok-jun and the Korean ambassador to Burma, now known as Myanmar. The bombing, which also killed three Burmese and injured more than 33, is remembered as one of the most tragic events in world diplomatic history.
Mr. Chun cut short his schedule and returned home to a memorial service for the South Korean victims. The Burmese, which had diplomatic relations with both North and South, were mum on the case, saying suspects, identified only as Koreans, were in custody. A month later they reported that two North Koreans had been tried for the crime and were sentenced to death. They were executed in February 1984. As a result of the bombing, several countries, including Myanmar, broke off diplomatic ties with North Korea.
Oct. 9, 1998
Ahn Hee-dae, a politician with a leftist background, was found dead, his ankles bound with a belt, on a street in Yeongdeungpo, southern Seoul. His head was badly bruised. Mr. Ahn’s whereabouts had been unknown after a visit to his hometown for Chuseok, Korea’s thanksgiving holiday. Rumors circulated about the murder, but a police investigation found that Mr. Ahn died during a botched mugging.
Oct. 12, 1920
Ryu Gwan-sun showed great fortitude during Japan’s occupation of Korea last century. While attending Ewha Academy (today’s Ewha Womans University) Ms. Ryu played a crucial part in the independence movement sparked on March 1, 1919. When the Japanese shut the school temporarily to punish students for protesting, Ms. Ryu went to her hometown in Chungcheong province to organize a follow-up demonstration. Visiting schools and churches in the area, the 17-year-old mustered a crowd of more than 3,000 people. She handed out Korean flags, taking command of the demonstration.
In retribution for these actions, Japanese officials killed Ms. Ryu’s parents and locked her up. She was later taken to a prison in Gongju, Chungcheong province, where one of the other inmates was her brother, who had taken the initiative in forming another pro-independence rally. Ms. Ryu was sentenced to three years in prison, which she stretched to seven years by throwing a chair at a Japanese prosecutor. Confined to the infamous Seodaemun Prison, where torture was routine, Ms. Ryu died on this date.
by Chun Su-jin