Troops return home; harassing cop punishedFeb. 23, 1973
Pigeons, Blue Dragons, Wild Tigers and White Horses. These were names of South Korean army units dispatched to the Vietnam War (1960 to 1975). On this date, the White Horses squad came home after eight years on the bloodstained battlefields. Local press reported the comeback as a “triumphant return home.”
In support of the United States, then-President Park Chung Hee dispatched the troops in defiance of nationwide opposition. Starting from March 16, 1965, when the Pigeons went to war, about 320,000 South Korean soldiers were sent to Vietnam. South Korea thus had the second-largest foreign military force in Vietnam after the U.S.
The South Korean army claims it killed more than 41,370 Vietcong soldiers, and 20,000 firearms were captured as booty. The South Korean army, however, was hardly free of casualties, with about 5,000 soldiers killed in action and more than 15,000 injured. The South Korean government conferred more than 25,000 decorations on the soldiers who took part in the war.
Feb. 27, 1988
Moon Gwi-dong, an officer at Bucheon Police Station, had the wrong idea about how to conduct an investigation. In summer of 1986, Mr. Moon sexually harassed Kwon In-sook while she was being questioned about the anti-government college student movement. In the interrogation session, which began at 4:20 a.m. and lasted two hours, Mr. Moon forced Ms. Kwon to reveal the names of her fellow student activists. According to Ms. Kwon, when she refused to cooperate, Mr. Moon unzipped his pants and touched her breasts.
One thing that Mr. Moon did not expect was that Ms. Kwon, a Seoul National University student, would have the courage to break the silence and challenge the social stigma placed on women who were victims of sexual harassment. Ms. Kwon with her lawyer Jo Yeong-rae, filed a suit against Mr. Moon, which let the world know of his wrongdoing. In the midst of the public furor against Mr. Moon, some card-carrying right-wingers called Ms. Kwon a “puppet of the Commies who is using sex as a tool.” The police and prosecutors denied her accusations, and the case was dropped.
Ms. Kwon appealed to the court again, and on this date, Mr. Moon was brought to trial. He said, “In this time of democratization, I have to say what I have to say. I did not do anything wrong.” The Court of Justice, however, was on Ms. Kwon’s side, sentencing Mr. Moon to five years of imprisonment.
Ms. Kwon, who was expelled from college for actively taking part in the anti-government movement, went back to school. Later in the 1990s, she divorced her husband and moved to the United States to get a doctorate in women’s studies. She eventually became a professor at Florida State University. Ms. Kwon returned home last year and is now a professor of women’s studies at a university in Seoul. Mr. Moon opened a licensed beverage room in 1993 after being released from prison.
Feb. 27, 1584
Lee E, also known as Yulgok, was a jack of all trades. A scholar in the Joseon Dynasty (1392 to 1910), he also played an important role in the royal court, where his policies showed concern for the public instead of political factions.
As the son of Shin Sa-imdang, a symbol of motherhood in Korea, Mr. Lee was called a child prodigy. In his teens and 20s, he swept the prestigious government exams nine times, all in first place. After studies in Buddhism and Confucianism, Mr. Lee moved on to an area of metaphysics called Seongnihak that originated from the Ming Dynasty in China. With a group of contemporary scholars, Mr. Lee made academic arguments that are considered to have elevated Korean metaphysics.
As a government official, Mr. Lee tried to improve the livelihood of the people. He suspected that Japan had designs on invading Korea and insisted that 100,000 soldiers be kept in preparation. He was ignored; less than 10 years after his death, Japan would overrun the Korean Peninsula. Mr. Lee grew weary of political infighting and quit his post in 1576, only to be brought back by King Seonjong. Soon after, however, Mr. Lee again deserted his post. A year later, on this date, Mr. Lee died at his home in Seoul, at the age of 49.
by Chun Su-jin