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Centenary of Park Chung-hee’s birth

Posted November. 14, 2017 07:33,   

Updated November. 14, 2017 08:50


U.S. President Donald Trump said Wednesday in the National Assembly in Seoul, “Korea has become one of the most prosperous countries in the world, rising from the ashes of horrific war.” The president of the most powerful country praised Korea highly. After the Imjin War, Korea declined for 300 years, and degenerated into a colony of Japan. Shortly after achieving independence, division and war ripped apart the country into pieces. Former President Park Chung-hee played a leading role in placing the impoverished country in the ranks of economic powers.

Supporters of late President Park Chung-hee and anti-Park groups staged a rally over the installation of his statue on Sunday, a day before the centenary of his birth, in front of the memorial hall in Sangam-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul. There was a slight collision between the two groups of protesters. The 4.2-meter-high, bronze statue is an artwork of sculptor Kim Young-won who created a statue of King Sejong. President Park Chung Hee Memorial Foundation received a donation certificate from a group that pushed ahead with creation of the statue. The Seoul Metropolitan Government’s approval is necessary to install the statue as the memorial hall uses private land free of charge.

A boy was born in an impoverished farming village on November 14, 1917. He went to school of education during the period of Japanese colonial rule, and had to change his name into a Japanese one to study in Manju Military Academy and Japan Military Academy. The former president wronged the constitutional order of Korea by seizing power through a coup-de-tat and ruling the country with an iron hand. However, there was no leadership to deal with hunger and rectify political confusion in the ruins of war. His strategies that prioritized exports, the heavy chemical industry and introduction of foreign capital changed the direction of Korea’s history.

Just as former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping built the foundation of China’s economy through an open-door policy and his practical leadership, Park Chung-hee showed a remarkable leadership in rebuilding the country. There have been coups in 40 emerging countries since 1950, but only Park’s is assessed to have enhanced national prosperity and defense. It might have been better if we could delete a few years from his 18-year dictatorship. Like it or not, Park Chung-hee played an important role in creating the miracle on the Han River. History will judge his achievements and faults.