An assassin, rebel group, scholar are killedDec. 20, 1974
Former President Park Chung Hee’s No. 1 supporter was the first lady, Yuk Yeong-su. Against Mr. Park’s cold-hearted image, Ms. Yuk won over people with her soft and gentle demeanor. So it was a blow of inordinate proportions when the first lady was assassinated during an Independence Day ceremony on Aug. 15, 1974. Moon Se-gwang targeted the president, but the bullet missed the mark and entered the first lady’s skull. When he was caught, Mr. Moon insisted that a pro-North contingent of Korean-Japanese based in Japan had encouraged his action. Mr. Moon appealed in vain to the courts that he was being used as a puppet by North Korea. On Dec. 17, the Supreme Court sentenced him to death.
At 7:05 a.m. on this date, Mr. Moon was removed from his jail cell. He appeared calm, not knowing that he would be executed. When asked for his last words, he was taken aback. “Am I being executed now?” he asked. While crying, Mr. Moon repeated, “I’m sorry” and “I was cheated by the pro-North community.” The executors prepared Mr. Moon’s favorites, a cup of coffee and a pack of cigarettes, but he did not ask for them. At 7:31 a.m., the bailiffs covered Mr. Moon’s head with a white hood and he took his last breath.
Dec. 18, 1811
Hong Gyeong-rae of the late Joseon Dynasty (1392 to 1910) was cut out for success. An intellectual well-versed in Confucianism and feng shui, Mr. Hong also had a strong physique. One thing that hindered him was his plebian background. On top of that, he was born in Pyeongan province, in the peninsula’s politically isolated northwest. Mr. Hong did not give up easily, however. For 10 years, he wandered the peninsula to get in touch with reality and assemble a group of comrades. Funding came from some well-to-do merchants of his hometown. On this date, he started an uprising known as Hong Gyeong-rae’s Rebellion. The revolt went well, as the peasant army conquered small towns on its way toward the capital, Hanyang (today’s Seoul). Until April, that is. Upon encountering government troops, the movement’s bonds loosened and they were overtaken; almost 3,000 rebels were captured and executed in the process. People believed that Mr. Hong was alive somewhere on a remote island, preparing to strike back. He never resurfaced.
Dec. 20, 1519
The Joseon King Jungjong took the crown after usurping the tyrant Yeonsangun’s grip. The new king wanted a political rejuvenation, so he appointed a group of young scholars with innovative ideas. Jo Gwang-jo was one of the king’s favorite idealists. Mr. Jo and his friends were too idealistic, however, showing no flexibility in carrying out policies. This earned the antagonism of other political factions. One day, his opponents wrote four Chinese characters, “ju cho wi wang,” in honey on the leaf of a tree inside the palace. The characters mean “Jo would be king.” Taking the leaf, whose honey-pasted section had been eaten by worms overnight, to the king, Mr. Jo’s enemies succeeded in driving Mr. Jo and his faction out of the court. In this Purge of the Literati, Mr. Jo was banished to a remote country. On this date, King Jungjong poisoned Mr. Jo to death.
by Chun Su-jin
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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