Untimely deaths through bullets and jealousyJuly 19, 1947
Even after the long-awaited liberation from Japanese colonial rule, Korea suffered from internal strife. Divided by ideology and superpowers, the peninsula did not have a moment of peace.
To Yeo Un-hyeong, who endured decades of colonial rule as a freedom fighter, this could not be more lamentable.
Mr. Yeo himself had communist leanings, but his first priority was a harmonious Korea. Instead of picking sides, Mr. Yeo pursued ways to reunite the ideologically divided country, which in the end made him an unwelcome figure on both sides.
Before the liberation of Korea from Japan, Mr. Yeo’s active role in the independence movement, mostly from abroad in China and Japan, was marked by frequent trips to prison.
After majoring in English literature in China, Mr. Yeo was attracted to communist ideology. Mr. Yeo once met and discussed ideas with Vladimir Lenin in Russia.
Mr. Yeo was also enthusiastic about the independence movement, forming a committee aimed at re-establishing the Korean nation.
After liberation in 1945, however, Mr. Yeo found the committee under the influence of Park Heon-yeong, a radical communist, who clashed with right-wing groups supported by the U.S. military government.
Mr. Yeo formed a party of his own that offered flexibility of ideology, but it was ineffective in uniting the peninsula.
He then announced that he would resign from politics and went to Pyeongyang, where he allegedly met with Kim Il Sung.
The future North Korean leader, a friend of Mr. Yeo, tried to persuade Mr. Yeo into returning to politics. It was all for naught, however, as Mr. Yeo was assassinated on this date. He was struck in the head by bullets while riding in his car in the Daehangno area in northeastern Seoul.
The assassin, Han Ji-geun, was sentenced to life imprisonment. A commemorative flower wreath from then North Korean leader Kim Il Sung was placed on Mr. Yeo’s grave.
Mr. Yeo had two daughters who were studying abroad in then-Soviet Union when he was killed.
After Kim Il Sung started the Korean War in 1950, he invited the two daughters to move to Pyeongyang.
The daughters had a belated reunion with their father in 1991, when they came to the south to pay their respects at his grave.
July 23, 1971
Yu Shin-suk, a blooming 21-year-old college student, was on top of the world as May Queen of Duksung Women’s University in 1971.
Life couldn’t be rosier for Ms. Yu, the youngest daughter of an orphanage owner in the small city of Suncheon, Jeolla province.
But her happiness was not to last forever. On July 6, only two months after the May Queen wreath was placed on her head, she was found dead on a fifth-floor balcony of the Daeyeongak Hotel in Myeongdong, downtown Seoul.
On this date, the police started a thorough investigation. With bruises indicating she had been strangled, Ms. Yu also had a slight gash on one thigh.
Lee Sang-gyun, then 27, a close friend of Ms. Yu’s deceased brother, was the prime suspect. Mr. Lee, who had a longtime crush on Ms. Yu, confronted and assaulted her in the hotel room upon hearing a rumor that she was seeing a different man.
Mr. Lee, a shoe-store manager, had two of his clerks lure Ms. Yu from her school to downtown, where they kidnapped her and took her to the hotel room.
Threatening that he’d force her to marry him, Mr. Lee attempted sexual intercourse. Ms. Yu resisted and Mr. Lee stabbed her thigh with a jackknife and strangled her.
When Ms. Yu turned pale and went limp, Mr. Lee panicked and threw her out to the window from the room on the 17th floor. He later told the police investigation that he tried to cover up the murder by making Ms. Yu’s death look like a suicide.
Mr. Lee confessed his guilt in the crime. Later, however, things got complicated when he changed his word to say that Ms. Yu fell out of the window by herself.
With the National Institute of Scientific Investigation’s autopsy confirming that it was murder, not suicide, Mr. Lee was sentenced to death. His sentence was later reduced to life imprisonment.
by Chun Su-jin
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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