Security agency persecutes artists, tries to improve image

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Security agency persecutes artists, tries to improve image

Jan. 9, 1983
Park Sun-cheon was one of the first Korean women to wear the golden badge of a National Assembly member. Ms. Park was a teacher at a girls’ high school in 1919, when a nationwide movement against Japan’s colonial rule broke out and Ms. Park found herself taking a lead role. Blacklisted by the colonial government, Ms. Park fled to Japan to avoid arrest, and went to medical school. In less than a year, however, she was caught, and jailed until 1921. She returned to Japan, this time to go to college; at 28, she came home with a college diploma and a husband.
She found a home in Seoul, running a school until independence came in 1945, when she moved from education into politics. In 1950, when the Korean War broke out, she was first elected as a lawmaker. Thus began her 20-year political career, spent in the opposition party in the time of military regimes. Ms. Park was among the very first women to reach the highest ranks in Korean political parties. Ms. Park died on this date at the age of 85.

Jan. 10, 1989
As an aspiring artist, Ungno Lee liked to draw the four “gracious plants” of black-and-white oriental painting: orchid, plum, chrysanthemum and bamboo. He did not seem very interested in politics. After Korea won independence from Japan, all Mr. Lee cared for was his Zen art and teaching college students, until he flew over to Paris in 1958. He had a number of successful solo exhibitions there; he fused his realist oriental style with Western collage art to create something original. Mr. Lee was thus known as a proud Korean artist abroad ― until 1967.
In July of that year, the Agency for National Security Planning of Korea named Mr. Lee as a spy for North Korea. The intelligence agency accused 34 South Korean artists and students stationed in Europe of spying for the North, with East Berlin as a stronghold. Rumors sprang up that the whole conspiracy was fabricated by the Park Chung Hee military regime, but no one dared to talk about it. Everyone accused was sentenced either to death or to lifelong imprisonment. Mr. Lee, along with the celebrated German-based classical music composer Yoon Yi-sang, served in prison in Anyang, Gyeonggi province, until he was granted clemency in 1969. Returning to Paris, Mr. Lee gave up his South Korean citizenship. Mr. Lee died on this date in Paris, where he chose to be buried.

Jan. 10, 1997
Mount Namsan in central Seoul was the last place on earth pro-democracy activists wanted to go. As home to the Agency for National Security Planning, the place had a number of murky cellars where dissidents against military regimes were tortured. If a couple of agents in black suits in a black sedan asked you to go to Namsan with them, you had a slim chance of coming out healthy, or even alive. On this date, however, the site was born again, as a park for citizens. With the election of Kim Dae-jung as president, the agency tried to get beyond its history as a fearsome entity, under a new name, the National Intelligence Service. The agency changed its motto, too ― from “We work in the dark, bound for the sun” to the more generic “Information is the power of the nation.”


by Chun Su-jin

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