[HISTORY IN THIS WEEK]Industrialists, guerrillas, and internecine warNov. 1, 1999
Kim Woo-choong was once considered the darling of Korea’s modernization, who could do no wrong. Born in Daegu, Mr. Kim started his career as an office worker, but later took a leading role in the industrialization of the nation by founding Daewoo in 1967. Along with Samsung and Hyundai, it became one of Korea’s top three conglomerates that served as the industrial backbone.
Known for his diligence and strong constitution, Mr. Kim became a model of the Korean work ethic in overdrive. In the same way, Daewoo made a name for itself not just by entering the international market, but also by commanding a far-flung network of branch offices, subsidiaries and affiliates in practically every corner of the world. Mr. Kim also impressed readers and budding entrepreneurs with his autobiography: “The World Is Wide With Many Things to Do.”
The other side of the story, however, was that Daewoo’s business model was a house of cards fraught with economic difficulties, rife with debt and destined for massive restructuring at the hands of creditors. On Nov. 1, 1999, Mr. Kim was asked to resign on this date.
After his fall from grace, Mr. Kim found himself with an array of lawsuits regarding indemnity, accusations of illegal money laundering, and hiding cash, among many other charges. Mr. Kim left the country to avoid prosecution, and is alleged to be hiding out in Germany. Mr. Kim has yet to return to answer the many questions that are still unresolved. Books and films, on the other hand, have been produced on Mr. Kim to satisfy the public’s curiosity.
Nov. 3, 1878
Shin Dol-seok was a man of low birth who made his name in history as a leader of the army that saved his country from being vanquished in the late Joseon Dynasty.
Born on this date in the small town of Yeongdeok in North Gyeongsang province, Mr. Shin grew up amid the political turmoil of the late 19th century, when Joseon was treated as a pawn among world powers such as Japan, China and the United States.
When he was 17, he witnessed the assassination of Queen Myeongseong by the Japanese. The monarchy, however, was powerless in avenging her death or reacting to the Japanese. It was a grassroots movement that inspired Koreans to rise in revolt. Among the leaders was Shin Dol-seok, who raised an army of 100 men from his hometown to fight against the Japanese. In 1905, when a few pro-Japanese Joseon Dynasty officials signed a treaty that acceded to Japan’s claim over Joseon, Mr. Shin became Joseon’s first guerrilla fighter against Japanese colonial rule here.
Mr. Shin was a large and well-built man who exuded the strength and confidence expected of someone destined to lead an army. Known for his toughness and discipline, Mr. Shin soon grew his army into a formidable and feared opponent of the Japanese. His army engaged in guerrilla warfare and waged an insurgency against the Japanese that went on for years. The Japanese Army put a price on his head and made every effort to capture him, including detaining his wife, but these efforts were all in vain.
To put the Japanese off his trail, Mr. Shin planned to escape to Manchuria to continue the independence movement. However, his plans were foiled by his own family members, who betrayed him to the Japanese in order to claim reward money. After being turned in by his siblings, Mr. Shin was executed in 1908. In 1963, the Korean government posthumously awarded him a decoration recognizing his patriotism.
Nov. 6, 668
Unification has been a perennial question on the Korean Peninsula dating back to the 7th century, when, during the Three Kingdom period, Korea was comprised of three rival warring states: Silla, Baekje and Goguryeo.
Silla prospered in the southeastern part of the peninsula, and neighboring Baekje on the western side, with Goguryeo, the biggest of the three, commanding the northern half of the peninsula extending far into southern Manchuria.
During the era, each state attempted to conquer the others and unify into one nation. Internecine warfare between the kingdoms went on for centuries until King Munmu of Silla succeeded in vanquishing the other two states on this date.
by Chun Su-jin