[FOUNTAIN]Posco chief shows how to lead a life“When Korea needed a military, you served as a commissioned officer. When Korea was searching for an entrepreneur, you became one. When Korea needed a vision for the future, you turned into a politician,” said the late French president, Francois Mitterrand, to Park Tae-joon. The foreigner’s perspective deeply penetrated Mr. Park’s life.
Through the years, Mr. Park has pursued the invisible over the obvious. He tried to avoid being overwhelmed by the radical changes of the time and stuck to principles.
As a young officer during the Korean War, Mr. Park was in the middle of the battlefields as South Korean troops pushed back from Cheolwon to Pohang, and then up to Cheongjin. Among the 12 fellow company commanders, 10 were killed in battle. Instead of being devastated, he discovered an enduring value. “I will dedicate my short life to the eternal prosperity of my homeland,” he said with determination.
From the mid-1930s to early 60s, Mr. Park lived a life of steel. Now, steel is as commonplace as water, but back then, it was more precious than blood. Standing in the deserted Yeongil Bay under a sand storm, he foresaw the city of flowing steel.
Former President Park Chung Hee, who had taught Mr. Park at the military academy, was the one that led the budding entrepreneur into a life of steel. From cold steel, the two men built an industry upon which was founded Korea’s national security. North Korea’s steel production at the time was 2 million tons per year, while the South only produced less than 200,000 tons. Mr. Park used to say that steel was his religion.
When the president of Moscow State University visited the Posco facilities and its housing complex in early 1990s, he told Mr. Park, “I saw the utopia that Lenin had dreamed of and that was pursued here. This is what our dream would have been like.”
Mr. Park is such a colossal figure because he pursued Park Chung Hee’s philosophy of breaking away from poverty, yet never took a part in the autocratic politics and handled an enormous amount of money yet hardly showed any sign of corruption. Now, if he is allowed enough time in the rest of his life, he would like to play a role in the industrialization of North Korea. The distinctions between conservative and progressive, pro-North and anti-North are meaningless to the giant.
by Chun Young-gi
The writer is a deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.