Park’s assassin is executed, an army clique fadesMay 24, 1980
At first glance, the recent hit film “The President’s Barber” is an innocent comedy and drama that tells the fictional story of a commoner who becomes a barber for the former President Park Chung Hee. However, the film cannot escape criticism that it glossed over some parts of history that remain a sore spot for Koreans.
One such example is the description of President Park’s assassination by Kim Jae-gyu, who was executed on this date. Mr. Kim was then the head of the national intelligence office, an almighty figure in the military regime who had President Park’s favor.
In the film, the intelligence chief walks drunkenly to his secretary to get a pistol before killing the president and another official. The film implies that a rivalry with the head of the presidential guard, ostensibly Cha Ji-cheol (fictional names are used in the film), was the motive behind the assassination.
It is true that Mr. Kim did not get along with Mr. Cha. Shortly before the assassination on October 26, 1979, a large anti-military regime protest took place in Busan and Masan, known as the Bu-Ma Incident. President Park did not tolerate this kind of resistance and reprimanded Mr. Kim for losing control of the situation.
With the stress piling on, Mr. Kim allegedly planned the assassination to take place at an evening dinner party, which the president and Mr. Cha would be attending. It was there he shot two bullets each into the president and Mr. Cha, who both died on the spot. Mr. Kim was arrested immediately afterward, and the country fell under emergency martial law the following day.
After the assassination, Mr. Kim was dubbed a traitor who dared to kill the father of the country over a personal grudge. Mr. Kim, however, said in court that he was not guilty, and that the assassination was his expression of a strong desire for democracy.
He insisted that President Park was ready to open fire on the citizen activists in Busan and Masan, which he tried to stop. Mr. Kim also said, “I’m proud of what I’ve done, for I believe it advanced the arrival of democracy at least two decades.”
Mr. Kim, however, was found guilty and sentenced to death.
Approximately seven months after the assassination, Mr. Kim was brought to the execution grounds. Mr. Kim fainted a few minutes before the execution took place.
The ensuing political vacuum caused the country to fall into turmoil, which gave Chun Doo Hwan, then only a second lieutenant in the army, a chance to step up and snatch power. Mr. Chun staged a coup d’etat on December 12 and opened another chapter of the military regime.
May 25, 1993
There was a driving force behind Chun Doo Hwan’s rise to power, which cumulated in his coup d’etat in 1979. It was a private clique inside the army, called Hanahoe, meaning “all-for-one association.”
Made up of selected members from the Korean Military Academy, Hanahoe was a powerful group in the army. Established by Mr. Chun in 1963, Hanahoe monopolized every key position in the army, especially when it came to personnel affairs.
When Mr. Chun, along with his closest subordinate, Roh Tae-woo, won the favor of then-President Park Chung Hee in 1973, it was a major breakthrough for Hanahoe. After Mr. Chun’s military regime, it was Mr. Roh’s turn to reign in the Blue House until early 1993.
After the country’s first civilian president, Kim Young-sam, took office in February 1993, things started to change. Being a Hanahoe member from then on became a ball and chain, instead of a shortcut to success. When Mr. Kim took power in 1993, about 100 Hanahoe members were in the army, including several generals at the top-ranking levels.
On this date, President Kim transferred four generals, who were former members of Hanahoe and played leading roles in the 1979 coup, to the reserve forces. This was followed by a series of measures designed to remove any remaining prestige from the Hanahoe name.
After three decades of influence, Hanahoe thus faded into history.
by Chun Su-jin