[HISTORY IN THIS WEEK]UN accepts the Koreas; DJ sentenced to deathSept. 16, 1991
South Korea had been knocking on the door of the United Nations, seeking to become a member country, since 1949. But with many obstacles in the way, including the opposition of the Soviet Union, then a “permanent” member of the UN Security Council, the sight of the taegeukgi (the South Korean flag) flying at the United Nations seemed an unlikely goal.
On this date, however, after having applied for membership 16 times, South Korea was accepted on its 17th attempt. North Korea (which had applied for membership five times before) became a member on the same date; the vote in the General Assembly to accept both countries was unanimous.
In order to be seated next to each other (seats are assigned alphabetically), South Korea considered the idea of using the names “Korea, Republic of” and “Korea, Democratic People’s Republic,” but this never happened, allegedly because the North showed little interest.
Sept. 17, 1965
Ahn Eak-tai’s primary tool of protest against Japanese colonial rule was his music. Born in Pyeongyang in 1906, Mr. Ahn was drawn to music the first time he heard the harmonium at a church. Learning to play many musical instruments, including the violin, the trumpet and the cello, Mr. Ahn advanced as a musician, but another driving passion in his life was the desire to see his country free. Blacklisted as a student activist, he left the country for Tokyo, where he managed to enter a music school.
In 1930, he went to the United States to pursue further study at schools in Cincinnati and Philadelphia. Giving up his dream of being a professional cello player, Mr. Ahn started to focus on composition, which he later found to be what really suited him.
In 1936, he wrote a song for his country, “Aegukga” (“Song for Love of Country”), which became the national anthem of Korea in 1948. Under Japan’s rule, Korea had briefly had an anthem that used the melody of the Scottish folk song “Auld Lang Syne,” and Mr. Ahn wanted his country to have a song of its own. Meanwhile, his journey in pursuit of music continued; he moved to Europe and conducted several orchestras there. Having seen his country liberated from Japan and his song become the national anthem, he died on this date in Spain. Married to Dolores Talavera, a Spaniard, Mr. Ahn had three daughters. One of his granddaughters, Park Yun-shin, now lives in Korea, and also studies music.
Sept. 17, 1980
Former President Kim Dae-jung has many stories to tell about the National Security Law. Asked last week about the current debate over the abolition of the controversial law that has survived for decades, Mr. Kim did not answer straightforwardly; instead, he said, “I myself was sentenced to death under the National Security Law.” That happened on this date, under the jurisdiction of the military court of the Chun Doo Hwan regime.
The year 1980 was a nightmare for Mr. Kim, then a democratic activist, as the military regime of Park Chung Hee was merely replaced by another, that of Mr. Chun. After the assassination of Mr. Park in October 1979, Mr. Chun, then a general, led a coup d’etat in December. This was followed by fierce resistance from the people five months later, in the uprising that became known as the May 18 Gwangju Revolution.
The uprising ended up a bloodbath, with hundreds slain by the new regime. The regime, however, held Mr. Kim responsible for the uprising, painting it as a conspiracy to seize political power. Along with other pro-democracy fighters, Mr. Kim was brought before the military court and sentenced to death based on the National Security Law. After the regimes headed by Chun and his succeessor, Roh Tae-woo, ended in the early 1990s, Mr. Kim survived to become president himself in 1998, and went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2000.
Only after his term of office ended last year, Mr. Kim file an appeal of his conviction. It took no more than five minutes for the judge to find him not guilty. On his way out of the hearing, Mr. Kim said, “I once again realized that the people and history always win in the end.”
by Chun Su-jin
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