Park Chung Hee

Park Chung Hee

▪ president of South Korea

born Sept. 30, or Nov. 14, 1917, region of Taegu, Korea
died Oct. 26, 1979, Seoul
 South Korean general and politician, president of the Republic of Korea (South Korea) from 1963 to his death. His 18-year rule brought about enormous economic expansion at the cost of civil liberties and political freedom.

      Born into an impoverished rural family, Park graduated (1937) with top honours from Taegu Normal School, after which he taught primary school. After attending a Japanese military academy, Park served as a second lieutenant in the Japanese army during World War II and became an officer in the Korean army when Korea was freed from Japanese rule after the war. He was made a brigadier general (1953) during the Korean War and was promoted to general in 1961. In the same year, he led a bloodless coup (May 16) that overthrew the Second Republic. He remained the leader of the junta until two years later, when he won the first of his three terms as president of the Third Republic.

      At home Park maintained a policy of guided democracy, with restrictions on personal freedoms, suppression of the press and opposition parties, and control over the judicial system and the universities. He organized and expanded the dreaded Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA), claiming that all his measures were necessary to fight communism. In foreign affairs he continued his predecessors' close relations with the United States. Park was responsible in large part for South Korea's economic miracle; the programs he initiated gave his country one of the fastest-growing economies in the world.

      On Oct. 17, 1972, Park declared martial law, and one month later a new constitution was approved that gave him sweeping powers. He grew increasingly harsh toward political dissidents. After Park's dismissal (1979) of a popular opposition leader from the National Assembly, Korea erupted with severe riots and demonstrations. Park was assassinated by his life-long friend Kim Jae Kyu, the head of the KCIA.

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Universalium. 2010.

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