[FOUNTAIN]20 years later, he’s still missed

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[FOUNTAIN]20 years later, he’s still missed

On Oct. 9, 1983, while Koreans were celebrating Hangeul Day, a terrorist attack occurred at the Aung San National Cemetery in Burma; it was an attempt to assassinate President Chun Doo Hwan, who was there as part of a tour of Southeast Asian countries. Among the Korean delegation, Deputy Prime Minister Seo Suk-joon; Foreign Minister Lee Bum-suk; the president’s chief of staff, Hahm Pyung-choon, and the presidential senior secretary for economic affairs, Kim Jae-ik and 13 others were killed. Like the national cemetery building where Burma’s founding father Aung San was buried, the pillars of Korea also fell.
A memoir was published on Oct. 6 to mark the 20th anniversary of the death of Kim Jae-ik. Many people agreed that if Mr. Kim had not died so young, our country would have been different. Born in 1938, he was appointed in 1980, at age 42, to be the presidential senior secretary for economic affairs. But he left no well-known public record because he had not written a book and stubbornly avoided interviews with the media. Nevertheless, there have been steady efforts to commemorate him. People consistently praise him as a figure who facilitated the upgrading of the Korean economy. They say Mr. Kim improved the constitution of the Korean economy based on the economic philosophy of stability, autonomy and opening. Thanks to his stabilization policy, we had an economic boom in the late 1980s.
Mr. Kim, who earlier worked for the Bank of Korea, was chosen by Deputy Prime Minister Nam Duck-woo for a position at the Economy Planning Board. It was good luck not only for President Chun but also for the Korean economy that the president chose him as his economics teacher at the Blue House when Mr. Kim was about to quit his job and move to the Korea Development Institute.
When his son, then a college student, protested that his father had cooperated with the autocratic regime, he told him, “Opening up and globalizing the economy will eventually make the despotic regime hard to maintain, and when the market economy takes root, the democratization of politics will naturally follow.” According to his wife, when critics grumbled that he could even work for Kim Il Sung, he said he would if he could convince him to accept a market economy. With the bad economy and factional fighting today, I miss Kim Jae-ik all the more.

by Lee Se-jung

The writer is deputy business news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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