Bumpy lives of a doctor, CIA chief and prince

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Bumpy lives of a doctor, CIA chief and prince

Oct. 16, 1918
The first Korean woman to earn a Western medical degree was Esther Park, who went to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. But on this date, Heo Yeong-suk passed her medical exam and soon became the first Korean woman in Korea to open a Western-style practice. Dr. Heo’s specialty was gynecology. The physician was better known as the wife of Lee Gwang-su, one of Korea’s first modern novelists. The couple met at a gathering of overseas students in Tokyo, in 1917. Though he was married with children, Mr. Lee began sending love letters to Ms. Heo and eventually won her heart. The lovers eloped to Beijing in October 1918, and exchanged vows three years later.
During the Korean War, Mr. Lee was abducted by soldiers to North Korea and was never seen again; his wife was left alone in Seoul, because her children were studying in the United States. Surviving on her husband’s royalties, Dr. Heo lived frugally, troubled by her diabetes. In 1971, Dr. Heo decided to join her children, who had become professors in the United States by then. Dr. Heo left Korea in tears, toting her most precious belongings: dozens of love letters from Mr. Lee. Dr. Heo died in 1975 at age 80. In her will, she asked that the love letters be placed in her coffin.

Oct. 16, 1979
Kim Hyeong-wuk, a former director of Korea’s Central Intelligence Agency, predecessor to the National Intelligence Service, was reported missing in Paris on this date. Mr. Kim had been out of contact with anyone, including his family, for 11 days by then. Rumors had it that North Koreans had kidnapped Mr. Kim, an avowed communist-hater. Others said Mr. Kim, a gambling addict, got in trouble with gangsters who operated in the Paris casino that he frequented. The French police, in cooperation with their Korean counterparts, took up the case but closed it without any results. In 1990, a court proclaimed Mr. Kim dead.

Oct. 18, 1453
Prince Anpyeong of the Joseon Dynasty (1392 to 1910) was a man of art. Though admired as one of the four greatest calligraphers of the dynasty, the prince also had refined tastes and talent in painting and music.
One night, he had the sweetest dream of his life. The prince reached a paradisiacal place of sublime hills and valleys, picturesque peach trees in full bloom, a still stream colored with a sunset’s glow. The prince shared the story with Angyeon, a painter and one of the prince’s best friends. The painter immortalized the memory by painting “Mongyu Dowondo (Paradise in a Dream),” which is now considered a landmark painting of that era. The prince added some poetic verse in graceful calligraphy.
The prince’s destiny, however, did not involve art. He was not on friendly terms with his half-brother, Prince Suyang, who hungered for the throne. When their eldest brother King Munjong died, leaving an 11-year-old crown prince who later became King Danjong, Prince Suyang laid bare his dark scheme and executed a coup d’etat. Prince Anpyeong did not escape the purge; he was banished to a remote island. On this date, the prince was poisoned by his brother-cum-king.


by Chun Su-jin

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