Park Tae-joon Passes On

Quite a coincidence really, i was just at dinner with some K friends and we started talking about the old days, and because they were of the older generation so I knew that they would know what I was speaking of, I told them of how I used to work for POSCO back in the dramatic year 1987, and met Park Tae-joon several times in various adventures; had not told those stories in years, it just came-up. Then I come home and find out that he died today at 84…. R.I.P.

I consider him one of the great men of Korea’s late-20th-Century industrial development, accomplished something truly amazing, with few peers (include POSTECH in that, too). He got involved in politics in the early 90s, probably never should have; but it doesn’t really tarnish his legacy. I admired him, felt honored to have worked there, still think of him as one of the really good leaders of that era. Don’t think i’m anywhere near alone on that…

If there is a tomb by next spring, I will visit it.

  • eujin

    He was at a Pohang Steelers game not so long ago looking very much like Tom Landry. It’s certainly a very cool museum they have down in Pohang about the early years at POSCO. I’ve always wondered how true to reality it all is. I’d be happy to hear some old stories sanshinseon if you’d care to share.

  • cm

    He built POSCO into what it is today. A great man.

  • gbevers

    After reading Sanshinseon’ post, it made me start thinking about Koreans who have impressed me. The first Korean to come to mind was Il Sakong, who was Minister of Finance in 1987, when I working there.

    One day he just came over to my desk and started talking with me while his entourage just stood back looking at each other as if they were thinking, “What’s he doing talking with the foreigner?” We talked for a good 5 minutes, which was quite a bit of time since he was on a tour of the ministry at the time.

    I was impressed not only with his fluency in English, but also with his active listening skills. He was not there to impress me with his English, but was focused on learning as much as he could about me in the short time he had, probably because I was one of only two foreigners, not counting the IMF representative, working at the ministry at the time.

    After our conversation I thought to myself, “Wow! That guy could be President of Korea someday.” Since then I have come to believe that the truly talented people in Korea do not become president, probably because their ethical standards are too high.

  • iMe

    hey gerry,
    you could say that (ethical men not becoming presidents) about every other country, no? *cough* obama *cough*

  • thekorean

    I severely disliked him as a politician, but that does not take away his amazing achievement as a leader for Korean economy. I love reading about his brash leadership during the 1980s — the same kind of brash leadership found in other titans like Chung Joo-Yeong and Kim Woo-Joong.

    Here is one: In 1978, Deng Xiaoping visited Nippon Steel, and asked its president Inayama Yoshihiro that Nippon Steel build a steel plant like POSCO in China also. Inayama replied: “Steel mills are built by people. Unless you have people like Park Tae-Joon, you can’t build a steel mill like POSCO.”

  • cm

    My respect for this guy just grew ten times when I read this. He left no personal assets and never lived an affluent life, living in hiss daughter’s house.

  • WangKon936


    What an amazing story. National development is built upon such men.

  • WangKon936

    I love this one:

    “In 1978, Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping asked Japan’s Nippon Steel Corp. to build a mill in China exactly like Posco’s. Nippon Steel’s then-chairman, Yosihiro Inayama, reportedly replied, “It won’t do you any good unless China has a manager as good as Park Tae-joon to run it.”

  • PineForest

    Is this the famous “Dynamite Park” ?

  • belair716_

    A great man, indeed. Rest in Peace.

    From the DongA (동아일보):

    [‘철의 사나이’ 박태준 1927∼2011]‘철강왕’ 빈소 찾은 시민 “절 한번 드리고 싶었다”

    I apologize to English speakers for massive quotes of Korean text but there were simply so many people who wished to pay respect to 박 태준 at the wake. Most of the quotes below consist of the names of the people who went to the wake that was provided in several places for five days nationwide in south Korea. President Lee (이 명박 대통령) and 박 근혜 대표 also paid their respect (for this, click on the link and read the original text).

    quoted from the article:

    “빈소에는 전두환 전 대통령, 김황식 국무총리, 이홍구 전 국무총리, 이수성 전 국무총리, 박희태 국회의장, 박준규 전 국회의장, 이재오 전 특임장관, 박원순 서울시장, 안철수 서울대 융합과학기술대학원장, 신동빈 롯데그룹 회장, 박삼구 금호아시아나그룹 회장, 장세주 동국제강 회장, 박용현 두산그룹 회장, 이진방 대한해운 회장, 이재용 삼성전자 사장, 정의선 현대자동차 부회장, 김재호 동아일보 사장 겸 채널A 회장, 김재열 삼성엔지니어링 경영기획총괄 사장 등 정·재계와 언론계 인사들이 찾아 고인을 추모했다. 생전 일본과의 각별한 인연 때문에 무토 마사토시(武藤正敏) 주한 일본대사, 고바야시 겐(小林健) 미쓰비시상사 사장 등 일본 주요 인사들의 발길도 이어졌다.”

    “추모 열기는 전국으로 확산됐다. 제철소가 있는 경북 포항시에 4곳, 전남 광양시에 1곳을 비롯해 서울 강남구 대치동 포스코센터 1층 로비에 마련된 분향소에는 조문객들의 발길이 이어졌다. 포스텍(포항공대)은 개교 25주년을 맞아 이달 초 세운 박태준 조각상 앞에 분향소를 설치했다. 부산 기장군은 박 명예회장의 고향인 기장군 장안읍 임랑리 임랑마을에 2013년 완공 목표로 ‘박태준 기념관’을 짓기로 했다.”

    “정부와 유족 측은 박 명예회장의 장례를 사회장으로 5일간 치르기로 했다. 사회장은 국가에 공헌한 저명인사가 사망했을 때 치르는 장례식이다. 국가장 다음에 해당한다. 이날 행정안전부는 박 명예회장에게 청조근정훈장을 추서하기로 했다.”

    * * *
    Park (박 태준 명예 회장) is awarded a medal of honor (청조근정훈장). Also Park Tae Joon Memorial Museum (박 태준 기념관) will be built in his hometown in Busan and is expected to be finished by 2013.