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“Unavoidable, Best Possible Choice”

In a recent presser, Park Geun-Hye addressed the issue of her father’s May 16 coup head on. (The link is an article in English, but I think the translation could be better. For clarity, I will provide both English and Korean texts of Park’s statements.)

When asked about May 16, Park replied:

I saw this one comment by a citizen on the Internet, that said: “Regardless of whether May 16 is referred to as a revolution or a coup d’etat, it happened, and the influence it caused on the Republic of Korea does not change.” At the time of May 16, Korea was surviving the lean times eating tree barks; it was the second poorest country in the world. It had a very dangerous national security situation. In those circumstances, father made the unavoidable, best possible choice. May 16 laid the foundation of today’s Korea. Father made the right judgment.

인터넷을 검색하다 시민이 댓글을 단 걸 봤다. 거기에 ‘5·16을 혁명이라 부르든, 쿠데타로 부르든 그게 일어났고, 대한민국에 미친 영향은 달라질 게 없다’는 글이 있었다. 5·16 당시 ‘초근목피’로 보릿고개를 넘기면서 세계에서 끝에서 두 번째라고 할 정도로 힘들게 살았고, 안보도 굉장히 위험한 상황에서, 아버지로선 불가피하게 최선의 선택을 하신 것이 아닌가 . 오늘날 한국이 있기까지 5·16이 초석을 만들었다. 아버지가 바른 판단을 내리셨다.

Regarding the oppressive yushin times, Park said:

I always felt a sense of guilt for those who suffered in that period and their families; I extend my sincere, deep apologies. But the national developmental plan that arose out of yushin must be left to the judgment of history. I will endeavor for democratization to blossom further, and for people’s lives to advance. I deeply understand father’s political philosophy, governing philosophy, views on national security, worldview, views on diplomacy, etc., as I heard them as we ate, as we rode in a car. But father’s time and today are very different. Father did his best, with a sense of calling for that era; I will do my best in a completely different world.

그 시대에 피해를 보시고 고통 겪으신 분들과 가족 분들에겐 항상 죄송스러운 마음 가지고 진심으로 깊이 사과를 드린다. 그러나 유신으로 일어났던 국가 발전전략과 관련해선 역사의 판단에 맡길 수밖에 없다. 민주화가 더욱 활짝 꽃피고 국민 삶이 더욱 발전할 수 있게 제가 더욱 열심히 노력하겠다. 저는 아버지의 정치철학·국정운영철학·안보관·세계관·외교관을 밥상머리에서 듣고, 차 타고 가면서도 들어 더 깊이 이해한다. 그러나 아버지 시대와 지금은 너무나 다르다. 아버지는 그 시대의 사명감을 가지고 최선을 다한 거고, 저는 완전히 달라진 세상에서 또 최선을 다하겠다.

Well, there it is.

  • dlbarch

    I don’t mean to quibble, and there’s a lot more about PGH’s comments that could be said, but for the moment, just where does she get the notion that at the time of Park’s coup, Korea was the “second poorest country in the world.”

    Korea was certainly poor in 1960, and maybe she’s exaggerating for effect, but that statement is, simply, wrong.

    DLB

  • LazyassBruiser

    DLB: not sure about the exact raking but wasn’t Korea actualy poorer than many Sub-Sahaan African countries at the time ?

    (which probably were on the other hand a bit better than what they are today)

  • wangkon936

    Well…. I think you fellows forget a little thing called the Korean War was that happened in the early 50′s. Heard it killed almost 4M people and was fought on virtually every tip of the peninsula. Those kinds of wars tend to make a country poor, especially if it was on that country’s soil using very destructive modern weaponry.

  • dlbarch

    No, WK…no one has forgotten the Korean War. But thanks for the reminder.

    Jeesh.

    DLB

  • wangkon936

    Then why are you surprised that Korea was so poor in 1960?

  • dlbarch

    LB,

    On one level, I would agree that any comparison of poverty is inherently vulgar. “Our abject poverty was worse than yours.” Ugh!

    My point is that PGH not only got a basic claim wrong, but one that is objectively, demonstrably and easily proven wrong.

    What that says about her other thoughts on, well, pretty much anything else, I leave to others to decide.

    Except to suggest that PGH could be Korea’s equivalent to Sarah Palin.

    Cheers,
    DLB

  • http://www.askakorean.net/ The_Korean

    As much as I dislike PGH, Sarah Palin is so much worse. At least PGH knows enough to keep her mouth shut until she has to speak.

  • http://www.askakorean.net/ The_Korean

    Down vote for you. The extent of poverty is not the issue here.

  • LazyassBruiser

    Like it or not she comes from political blue blood so i think she was trained throughout her life to handle power and powerful people with more composure thn the beauty queen from Wasilla

  • wangkon936

    I think I understand what you are saying now DLB. You are fact checking PGH. I would agree that she’s got the facts wrong. Korea was indeed poor in 1960, but not the second poorest country in the world poor.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_past_and_future_GDP_(nominal)_per_capita

    Afghanistan and India were poorer, comparatively.

  • wangkon936

    Settle down TK. I got it.

  • LazyassBruiser

    WK:

    One thing that surprised me from that ranking you linked is how poor Japan still was in 1960 (Korea had a per capita GDP 1/3 of Japanese level already !). I thought by that time they pretty much caught up with Europe. Their progression throughout the decade was impressive though

  • http://www.rjkoehler.com Robert Koehler

    I’d be curious to see where she got that number, too. That said, Korea did have a lower GDP than Ghana and Kenya in 1960, although to be fair, Ghana and Kenya were two of the wealthiest countries in Africa at the time.

  • gumiho

    My wife grew up in those times in an isolated, small village-she’s just about the same age as PGH. I’ve heard many a story of the deep poverty that everyone lived in back then. Her life as a small child in that place was probably no different than it had been for hundreds of years in Korea. She firmly believes PCH was the best possible person to lead Korea then, and she’s really hoping for a PGH victory.

  • wangkon936

    Well…. Spain and Turkey was about equal w/Japan at the time.

  • bumfromkorea

    Both my parents lived through PGH’s regime when they were in their teens/20s. My dad is an uber-liberal and hates his guts, while my mom’s opinion is a bit less extreme. As she put it, “PGH wouldn’t have been such a terrible president if it weren’t for all those people he’s killed and tortured.”

    Interestingly, she’s from Jeollanamdo and my dad’s side of the family fled to South from Pyongyang during the Korean war.

  • bumfromkorea

    …PJH, that is.

  • http://www.askakorean.net/ The_Korean

    It’s like the neighbors of any serial killer: “But he seemed like such a nice person!”

  • bumfromkorea

    Lol. My dad said the exact same thing when he heard her say that.

    She does admit that PJH gets a ‘comparative bonus’ within her thoughts because of how much she despises his successor (she went to Gwangju for middle/high school, and had a *lot* of friends/acquaintances there).

  • dlbarch

    One thing I will say about PGH is that she’s getting better at handling the press, and responding to questions about her father’s rule.

    Her apologizing to the families who suffered under the harsh rule of Yushin alone is a masterstroke, and appears to be part of a larger — and carefully orchestrated — charm offensive that follows her recent about-face on Jeong Du-eon.

    PGH is clearly positioning herself as a moderate. She’s not, of course, but since when does that matter.

    DLB

  • imememememe

    curious. what makes you think she’s not a moderate?

  • imememememe

    curious. what makes you think she’s not a moderate?

  • dlbarch

    IM,

    That’s a fair question. I’d start with the following from last month’s Hankook Ilbo:

    http://news.hankooki.com/lpage/politics/201206/h2012060802354721000.htm

    Of the 12 leading politician’s surveyed regarding their political views, PGH was deemed the most conservative.

    DLB

  • cm

    Oh puleesssee… you guys make it sound as if Park is like Pol Pot or something. Get a grip.

  • Byeonguk Yook

    South Korea was poor even without the Korean war. At least 90% of the industries, power plants and natural resources were located in the north. South Korea was suffering power outages. I don’t understand the point of going off tangent here.

  • cm

    Pray tell, who would have been a better choice to lead 1960s Korea? Without Park, the result would have been all predictable. South Korea would have been flooded by North Korean sympathizers, with corrupt “elected” officials lining their own pockets, while the US alliance undermined. Just look at what’s happening within South Korea now, with all the NK supporters and agitators. South Korea would have been another South Vietnam. Thanks to Park Jung Hee, you TK, are allowed to mouth off in your own creature comforts.

  • ★★ Public Schools★★

    As much as Koreans say – “He was the best choice, because we were in poverty” – his regime also tortured and killed many Koreans.

    That is not acceptable – and therefore neither is his daughter.

  • Byeonguk Yook

    I think it is pointless to nitpick on details as to who was poorer. People back then were likening Korea to Bangladesh now. They viewed it as a hopeless country didn’t have much of expectation to amount to much. In contrast I think they looked at the Phillipines as a promising country. Look at them now how things have changed.

  • cm

    Park Geun Hye has nothing to be ashamed of. She should speak of him proudly. Park was one of the greatest leaders in Korean history.

  • Byeonguk Yook

    It was an idelogical battle to see who was superior. Up to the late 70s NK had the edge and as a consequence it got a lot of sympathizers even in South Korea. Now South Korea has run away in practicallye every economic indicator and NK has the nuclear card to play. That is the only thing they have left.

  • Byeonguk Yook

    I agree. I wish people would cut out the dictator’s daughter crap.

  • Byeonguk Yook

    I tend to favor PGH not because I think she is great but because there isn’t a good alternative.

  • http://www.askakorean.net/ The_Korean

    Actually, it is thanks to my family and other democratization activists that cretins like you have any freedom of thought, including freedom to engage in delusion like the one you’re having now.

    “WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, and IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.” You buy this slogan literally. You don’t even know the meaning of freedom, you sad little man.

  • Byeonguk Yook

    He may have been unacceptable in human rights point of view but he did lay the groundwork for Korea to become a developed nation. Without him who knows, a lot of Koreans could still be living like their grandparents ecking out an existance. It isn’t quite simple to just dismiss him.

  • Josh Parker

    Has SHE ever apologised for the people her father tortured and killed ????

  • bumfromkorea

    If “Not Pol Pot” is your standard of HR for a supposedly democratic regime… well, actually that explains everything about your views.

  • gumiho

    My wife’s brother disappeared during the troubles in Gwangju-no trace of him ever found.

  • bumfromkorea

    At best, you’re saying ends justify the means.

    At best.

  • http://www.rjkoehler.com Robert Koehler

    Actually, it is thanks to my family and other democratization activists that cretins like you have any freedom of thought, including freedom to engage in delusion like the one you’re having now.

    Actually, I believe in cm’s case, it’s thanks to guys like John A. Macdonald.

  • Pingback: Political leaders react to PGH’s statement

  • KWillets

    My Korean isn’t great — does “세계에서 끝에서 두 번째라고 할 정도로 힘들게 살았고” mean it was “said to be” the second poorest? This quote is from some kind of UN study at the time, and one can find all sorts of references to it as part of the popular perception.

  • bumfromkorea

    Well, PJH also restricted international travels too, you know. :D

  • http://www.bcarr.com Brendon Carr

    Tell the truth: You and Dave Barch love Aaron Sorkin’s new HBO show The Newsroom, don’t you?

  • http://www.askakorean.net/ The_Korean

    Me? Never even watched an episode. Was never a fan of Aaron Sorkin — watched nothing from him. Andrew Ross Sorkin, however — like him very much.

  • cm

    Without Park Jung Hee, either your parents would have been slaving away for Kim Jong Eun, or they’d be competing for $1 an hour with their counterpart workers in Vietnam. You speak of democracy, yet I don’t see you criticisng those South Koreans who support North Korea. Why is that?

  • http://www.bcarr.com Brendon Carr

    I think you would love The Newsroom. This program is a literal chronicle of the alternate reality that both you and Barch inhabit. Barch, especially, would love it — the central character of the show is a Tea Party-hating, gun-grabbing, conservative-despising “Republican”.

  • cm

    Actually I’m a by product of Park Jung Hee, South Korea. I remember well, living in South Korea under Park wasn’t nearly as bad as TK makes it sound. At least South Korea had something that it doesn’t have now. South Korea of 1960′s and 1970′s had discipline, hope, optimism, and a “can do” spirit. The country was full of confidence that we were going in the right direction. What Park Jung Hee did, he instilled in Korea, a pride for the nation. Unlike today’s Korean leaders, Park was not corrupt and he never enriched himself. Singapore’s Lee Kwan Yew admired Park very much, which is no surprise. As long as you didn’t challenge Park’s power, you were pretty much left alone to live freely and allowed to climb the social ladder. Neither TK or Bum have lived in that era, how are they so sure that Koreans of that era were under miserable unfree conditions? It’s the intellectual leftists that I hate the most. They are loud, and they are annoying.

  • Byeonguk Yook

    That democratic activism without economic progress would have led to a messy political situation that communist could have taken advantage. I think the 2nd republic was not terribly effective because of that.

  • http://www.askakorean.net/ The_Korean

    You don’t speak of democracy at all.

  • http://www.askakorean.net/ The_Korean

    I am pretty sure my admiration for the Tea Party has been well documented.

  • http://www.askakorean.net/ The_Korean

    “WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, and IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.”

  • KWillets

    All I can piece together is that the quote was originally “second poorest in the UN”, with India poorest. That doesn’t equate to “second poorest in the world”, but it’s part of the mythology.

    It comes up constantly, eg http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iqOpR8uqBEk

  • keobuk2

    I hope I’m not going too far in the wrong direction, but doesn’t she have a point? Could it not be true that democracy is sometimes the wrong system for a country and that someone forcefully pointing the way is better?
    Going through a series of weak, corrupt governments would surely have hurt Korea much more than Park’s “best possible choice”.

  • Arghaeri

    Quite simple really, she notes it was a different time and a differrent place, and that see will not be following the same path.

    Seems a reasonable position to me.

  • Yu Bum Suk

    Very interesting discussion here. All I can contribute personally is that I doubt I’d be teaching the great-grandchildren of PCH’s generation in two high-tech classrooms (except some I teach in their classrooms because they can’t stfu when seated around tables facing each other) were it not for him. Sure, a democratically elected leader *could* have pulled it off but there were no such people fit to do it.
    BTW, I found this completely unbiased and objective account of Park’s presidency on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UA92mb3d3x0
    On a more serious note, someone was kind enough to translate large parts of The Fifth Republic into English starting here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vdqaGOdpjSQ&feature=related . How I wish someone would make The Third Republic in a similar type of series.

  • cardigan stewz

    The dyed-hair turds in Gangnam pay big money for tree bark these days.

  • http://www.rjkoehler.com Robert Koehler
  • Sanshinseon

    This “all those people he killed and tortured” theme — anybody have reliable numbers on those — that PCH could be held responsible for? and it was over the course of 18 years and a population of 40 million… I’m thinking that the numbers actually look pretty skimpy compared to the world’s nasty 20th-Cen dictators… Even if you limit it to Asia for comparison (Suharto, etc). I’m thinking that Chun outdid Park on a per-year basis. Yes, human rights violations are always wrong and even one is too many, but a little perspective helps in these historical evaluations.

  • LazyassBruiser

    Yes and her program sounds more reasonable than what the welfarist whackos have in mind to cripple one of the most dynamic economies in the world

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Richard-Hankin/1037654521 Richard Hankin

    I was also in Korea at the time as a Peace Corps volunteer.
    While there were excesses by the KCIA most Koreans went about their daily business. In four years I travelled a LOT!!!!
    Saemaul and mixing barley with rice because of a poor rice crop and NOT wanting to import rice from other countries, all in the hopes of making Korea independent from foreign influence, except the US of course.
    And then there was this little vignette. In THOSE days when one went to the movies the opening film was a three minute or so singing of the Korean national anthem with images of trains and bridges etc. And EVERYBODY stood at attention and i suspect, pride, on how far they had come from the ravages of the Korean War.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Richard-Hankin/1037654521 Richard Hankin

    Of course she has a point. we are so wedded to the term democracy that we forget the lessons of history and despite the rhetoric, democracies do VOTE to go to war..think the 90′s and the Balkans for instance.
    So it is TRUE that sometimes a “strong” leader is needed, like Lee of Singapore or Park Chung Hee.

  • Byeonguk Yook

    A democratic system works well in a relatively prosperious country. Part of it has to do with the fact that you have propertied people who want to look after their possession by public participation. If you have a poor country then people may be drawn to other systems such as communism in which state provides or suppose to provide to the people who are poor. Democratic activism in Korea historically in a way is an indication of this transition.

  • Byeonguk Yook

    That’s not really a fair to Park. He wasn’t at the level of Pol Pot. I’d put Pol Pot at the same level of the Nazis.

  • gumiho

    That’s one of the things my wife mentions a lot-everyone at her school was eating this barley mix for lunch, but since she was relatively well-off (her mother owned a rice field), her lunch was pure white rice, hidden under a layer of barley.She still eats barley rice to this day, and I’ve grown to favor it,too.

  • bumfromkorea

    I have no doubt that a dictatorship with full control over the media (or any social discourse) had the people think that ”
    we were going in the right direction.”

    At this point, you’re also begging for the 1984 comparison as much as you’re saying “So some people got murdered and tortured. So what? We’re all better off now, aren’t we?”

  • http://www.askakorean.net/ The_Korean

    That’s nice of him. Yeah, that’s the only conclusion I could muster up. PGH’s stance was exactly the way I expected it to be, and she simply said it one more time.

    Evan misspelled KMS’s name though.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Richard-Hankin/1037654521 Richard Hankin

    PCH was  a obsessed with education. Your wife will tell you that in school, more than 70 kids to a class, sitting on crude wooden chairs and in the winter, in the center of the room, was a pot belly stove that was suppossed to generate heat but never did and NEVER could heat the whole room full of black clad students.
    Their poor hands, red and swollen and chafed from the cold.
    But NOTHING, nothing was more important than an education.
    Their sacrifice and they did sacrifice. was to make a better day for those that followed.
    Thank her for me./
    komapsumida….
    Oddly enough, my favorite son then was “Barley Field”!!!!!

  • http://www.askakorean.net/ The_Korean

    Quite simple really, she notes it was a different time and a differrent place, and that see will not be following the same path. Seems a reasonable position to me.

    It’s reasonable only if one thinks Korea did not deserve democracy in 1960.

  • http://www.bcarr.com Brendon Carr

    To deserve is one thing, to be ready to accept is another. I think the Park Chung Hee position is that in 1960, Korea was not ready to accept democracy. The experiences of other Asian countries tends to bear this out — most of them were odious dictatorships in 1960, and now most of them are, to one extent or another, democratic.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Richard-Hankin/1037654521 Richard Hankin

    I had been in Korea only a short time and remember buying the Asian version of Time magazine and there, in the middle of the magazine, was a hole..censors had cut out an article about Korea!!!
    I was incensed..but over time I became more familiar with the way things were before PCH and  after the Korean war..I talked to folks who had lived thru those horrific times and anything, for them, was better than war and chaos…
    I lived In Cheoungju then and life went on as it normally does, people eating, drinking soju (the REAL soju, not that girly stuff), singing, shopping etc. There was not a repressive feeling at all..
    all is context.

  • Yu Bum Suk

    “This “all those people he killed and tortured” theme — anybody have reliable numbers on those — that PCH could be held responsible for?”

    I’m sure it’s less that what American military and security forces did under Bush. But since all Americans were free to wear miniskirts, grow their hair long, listen to whatever music they wanted, and usually get away with small amounts of weed I guess Bush won’t be resented quite as much.

  • cm

    Thanks for bring back those precious memories for me, Richard  Hankin.  Yes I remember those bitter cold days in Korean school rooms, with one coal fire furnace in the middle of the classroom of 107 students (my class sizes at that time were well over 100 students), with the teacher reading to us the novel Jean Val Jean.  Despite the coal furnace, my feet were frozen into numbness.  But the entire class weren’t ready to leave for home, we were too gripped by the novel that the teacher was reading to us. I was fortunate enough that my family weren’t in the same class of people who had to eat barley mixed rice, but there were plenty of kids in my class who did, and there were also a fair number who brought nothing for lunch. They were the shaven head kids who were from the nearby orphanages.  They went hungry.   Korea wasn’t repressive as its type of government suggests. Most people went about their lives, worked and studied hard, to build an economic powerhouse of today.  Majority of Koreans were too busy nor did they have the resources to fight over politics.  Now young leftist ideologists who were born later and who never had to work for half the stuff they have now, are trying to rewrite their own versions of history.   

  • Shin

    “Democracy” this and “democracy” that… haven’t any of you realized how poorly democracy has performed.  You leftists keep pushing for more and more “democracy” in poor countries thinking it would solve everything only to watch these counties burn in chaos and corruption.  Regardless of PCH’s morally questionable actions he did restore order and stability in South Korea which had previously been plagued by corruption and chaos of the previous republic.  The only way to have economic growth is to have a stable environment that encourages peaceful investment; a situation only possible in South Korea because of PCH.  Btw even today South Korea is thankfully NOT a democracy and is akin to a constitutional federal republic, which is very different than a “democracy.”

  • cm

    The mistake TK makes regarding Park’s rule is that he fails to distinguish “Authoritarianism” vs “Totalitarianism”.   If South Korea was like North Korea, as TK surmises, there is no way in hell, South Korea would be a developed economy today.  Park’s rule was clearly “Authoritarian” in nature, like that of today’s Singapore.  Here’s the site that lays out neatly the difference between authoritarianism vs totalitarianism.

    http://english.stackexchange.com/questions/22477/what-are-the-distinctions-between-authoritarian-totalitarian-and-dictator

    Authoritarianism is a form of social
    organization characterized by
    submission to authority. It is opposed
    to individualism and democracy. In
    politics, an authoritarian government
    is one in which political power is
    concentrated in a leader or leaders,
    typically unelected by the people, who
    possess exclusive, unaccountable, and
    arbitrary power. Authoritarianism
    differs from totalitarianism in that
    social and economic institutions exist
    that are not under the government’s
    control.

    Totalitarianism (or totalitarian rule)
    is a political system where the state,
    usually under the power of a single
    political person, faction, or class,
    recognizes no limits to its authority
    and strives to regulate every aspect
    of public and private life wherever
    feasible.Totalitarianism is
    usually characterized by the
    coincidence of authoritarianism (where
    ordinary citizens have less
    significant share in state
    decision-making) and ideology (a
    pervasive scheme of values promulgated
    by institutional means to direct most
    if not all aspects of public and of public and private life).

  • gumiho

    Mr Hankin: sadly, my wife wasn’t one of those determined ones-she tells me she usually had a comic book concealed in her textbook,or she was reading love notes passed to her from her many admirers,who would stand outside her house after school and throw notes tied to rocks where she might find them. Her normal walk to school would be considered Child Endangerment now-trudging several miles through the darkness of a Korean winter morning, crossing a river by hopping from one icy rock to the next,and singing loudly to scare off the “Egg Monster” (I’ve never gotten any explanation what this was), while carrying the Army messkit with her lunch in it, that was the only thing returned to her mother when her father was killed in the war.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Richard-Hankin/1037654521 Richard Hankin

    Sorry, 
    I have to bore you AGAIN with an old man story, apologies…
    But the story about the icy rock…
    Anyway I was on my way to school , crossing the bridge, that led to the pathway of Unho Chung Hakkyo.
    The day before I had, for the first time, dropped off some clothes to be washed.
    Very nice people. And in the small stream below I saw the wife of my laundry person, LITERALLY washing clothes in the water, icy cold water, beating them on an nearby rock.
    It never occurred to me that they wouldn’t have a washing machine!!!
    needless to say i felt very guilty about it all…
    As cm says, the current generation has NO idea of what life was like a mere 30-40 years ago…

  • http://www.askakorean.net/ The_Korean

    To deserve is one thing, to be ready to accept is another. I think the Park Chung Hee position is that in 1960, Korea was not ready to accept democracy.

    1. I fail to see the distinction.
    2. Even if there were a meaningful distinction, it is more than a little self-serving for the dictator to describe his rise to power that way.
    3. I find it absurd that the population that overthrew a dictator just a year previous (in the April Revolution) can be considered “not ready to accept democracy.” 

  • http://www.askakorean.net/ The_Korean

    The mistake TK makes regarding Park’s rule is that he fails to distinguish “Authoritarianism” vs “Totalitarianism”.

    Neither authoritarianism nor totalitarianism is democracy. That is all I care about.

    On the other hand, you finally outed yourself as someone who does not care about democracy and freedom. Good for you. Now go find yourself a country whose constitution does not guarantee democracy and freedom, since Korea is not such a country.

  • Hurry up

     I’m genuinely curious. Is there an example of an extremely poor country, with a communist threat (much like NK was) that was successful with Democracy as the political system?
    And by successful I mean  a sustained growth of the economy.

  • cm

     The last one was South Vietnam, if I recall.  We all know what happened there. They were destroyed from within, by themselves, and not by the North Vietnamese.  And frankly, that would have been the similar fate for South Korea if the military didn’t intervene and did some housecleaning of the extreme rot that was going on at that time.

    I want to hear from TK, what would have been the scenario for South Korea, if Park did not take control.  I’m curious to know what he thinks would have happened. 

  • JG29A

    KWillets, you kinda beat me to it! I surely couldn’t have been the only one who read that not as a literal claim of “second poorest”, but as a rhetorical device to say “we used to be just as bad off as the worst place, North Korea, but the North was still always worse.”

  • http://www.askakorean.net/ The_Korean

    Is there an example of an extremely poor country, with a communist threat (much like NK was) that was successful with Democracy as the political system? 

    And by successful I mean  a sustained growth of the economy.

    India.

  • cm

    How many bomb attacks have there been, where candidates are attacked and killed?

    Never mind the utter and hopeless corruption amongst grinding poverty.  Successful? No.

    You think South Korea could have turned out to be like India?  Thank god that didn’t happen!

  • jk6411

    Mr Hankin,
    These stories are not boring at all.
    They are fascinating!

  • http://www.bcarr.com Brendon Carr

    I find it absurd that the population that overthrew a dictator just a year previous (in the April Revolution) can be considered “not ready to accept democracy.

    You must not be following the news out of Egypt very closely.

  • http://www.rjkoehler.com Robert Koehler

    Not to take anything away from India, but way different security situation; way, way different levels of economic development. Trust me, I think if offered to trade Korea’s political history for India’s economic history, most Koreans would keep PCH.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PTHB56CE4X4IUXFZHPYLTIF7KM Jay

    As an Indian, I can say the reverse holds true.   Indians would never trade their political history and the pride that comes from kicking out a colonizer through one of the most evolved forms of conflict resolution (non-violent civil disobedience) for Korea’s economic history. Why? Thanks to its spiritual economy, the Indian psyche is not as tormented nor concerned with useless material crap as much as Koreans. But I’m afraid this won’t be the case forever, especially when seeing what’s happening with the Chinese.

  • Arghaeri

     Nope, whether Korea deserved democracy or not (and it probably did), is not relevant to the fact that it is reasonable to observe that it WAS a different time and a different place, and that in the current situation and place in history she will not be following the same path. 

  • Arghaeri

     Did you read the post?

    I always felt a sense of guilt for those who suffered in that period and their families; I extend my sincere, deep apologies.

  • Arghaeri

      I find it absurd that the population that overthrew a dictator just a
    year previous (in the April Revolution) can be considered “not ready to
    accept democracy.”

    You mean the fact they overthrew one dictator, but only a year later allowed another to take control, doesn’t demonstrate that?

  • pawikirogii

    cm’s comments here brought tears to my eyes. i saw korea’s poverty first hand. my guess is tk and bum aint never had to piss in a pot or go to mogyoktang because they had to. they can talk their mess with their bellies full. thats courtesy of pak even if they dont know it.

  • ies525se

    hmm

  • LazyassBruiser

    India seems to be a poster child for democracy failures: it started off in post-colonial post-WW 2 world with  a  level of development similar to totalitarian China.

    Now China is like what ? 3-4 times richer than India ? All it takes is going to a major Chinese city and a major Indian city to notice the striking differences 

  • LazyassBruiser

     
    Btw even today South Korea is thankfully NOT a democracy and is akin to a constitutional federal republic, which is very different than a “democracy.”

    Care to elaborate ?

  • LazyassBruiser

    Fuck…if we had only 10% of that spirit my country problems would be gone in 2 months 

  • http://www.bcarr.com Brendon Carr

    Korea is a unitary republic. Look up what federal means again.

  • cm

    On the other hand, the middle class in Seoul was not panacea.  We had tap water coming into residents but they were cold water only, and they were located outside! Laundry was done by hands by women of the house in the dead winter. The outhouses were located just outside the living quarters.  The neighborhoods were often disrupted by shit bucket cart pushers who went around pumping out human waste from those outhouses which were then inevitably used as fertilizers.  It probably wasn’t until the late 60′s when Korean homes started having bathrooms which even remotely resemble today’s Korean homes. But they still had no cold water. Taking a bath at home was a luxury, so it was more economical to go to the paid public bath houses – once every month.  Being a woman in that era must have been torture, just in terms of getting the laundry done for the entire family.  The homes were all heated by yontan and many people died of carbon monoxide poisoning when the heated floors had cracks on them.  The narrow Seoul’s residential streets were all unpaved and when it rained or in the spring when it thawed, the streets were covered in mud.  If you can avoid mud, then you’re left to deal with dog feces everywhere.  This was the middle class life in Seoul.  The lives in the countryside were much worse, as noted above.

    And who can forget Park’s Saemaul Undong which brought roof shingles replacing the thatched roofs, brought electricity to rural areas,  clean tap waters to people who never had them before, and gave people a sense of pride and purpose in doing something for the nation, instead of expecting the nation to do something for them. I flatly doubt that a democratically elected government of Korea would have been able to engineer such movements like Saemaul Undong because they would have been too busy fighting for power and lining their own pockets to care at all.  That has always been the case all throughout the history of Korea, right until Park came along.  So there’s absolutely no reason to believe that things would have been much different.  Park may have been relatively hard on those who questioned his power base, but he never openly killed people to stay in power, and he never stole from the country and the people. He lived a relatively frugal life, and it was obvious that he cared very much for Korea’s economic development.  We can never forget his trip to Germany on a public airline, meeting with the Korean guest workers who were nurses and coal miners, long ways from home, when the entire room burst into emotional tears, with Park tearing up in his speech.  Show me a South Korean leader today, that can even hold a candle for this guy. He may be the first and the last South Korean leader who had the fortitude and a vision to revamp the nation.  There is a good that his daughter may become the next president of South Korea. I hope she will never forget the vision that her father had envisioned for the nation.

     

  • LazyassBruiser

    This Lankov article is very well done imho:

    http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/biz/2010/06/291_64301.html 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Richard-Hankin/1037654521 Richard Hankin

    7000 miles to collect spit.
    There were three different kinds of Peace Corps volunteers. I was a Middle school teacher(ESL) and then college university ESL teachers and Health care workers. As you know, TB was rampant then(I had a lump on my lung after arriving and was given TB meds for a year) and a large effort was made to collect sputum samples etc. PCV’s helped in this effort .
    A story circulated among us that went something like this.(The PC grapevine was almost, then, as fast as twitter!!!)
    A Korean health care worker said this: He had a sense of importance about his job. After all, if a young  American came from half way around the world to work in rural health then his own job must be pretty significant.
    Indeed..

  • http://www.askakorean.net/ The_Korean

    Funny, pawi. My grandparents’ place did not have indoor plumbing until mid-1990s. They still do not have a shower, and I have to visit the nearby Mokyoktang each time I go there.

  • cm

     Thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping us. I am forever grateful for your sacrifices and your unselfishness in willing to share.  Thank you to you, and also to all the courageous Americans who helped us.

  • http://www.askakorean.net/ The_Korean

    Every country in the world has a way different security situation than from Korea. Does that justify dictatorship? That’s the point.

  • Cloud

     With the big bucks you’re making, you and you’re family can’t get get a shower and hot water for your grandparents!? Does your grandma still have to wash her clothes at the stream?

  • http://www.askakorean.net/ The_Korean

    Never said anything about hot water — but who cares about what I wrote when you can reply to what you THINK I wrote, right? 

    My grandmother is 96 years old. She doesn’t do much of anything, other than talking on the phone.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Richard-Hankin/1037654521 Richard Hankin

    Thank you,
    In truth, and I think many of my former PCV’s would agree, was that we received more than we gave.

  • http://www.askakorean.net/ The_Korean

    I actually have been, and I think Egypt is doing fine. It will be a process for them, as much as it was a process for Korea.

  • http://www.askakorean.net/ The_Korean

    If I put a gun to your head and took your wallet, did you “allow” me to take the wallet?

  • http://www.askakorean.net/ The_Korean

    The question is whether or not there is any relevance to the fact that it was a different time. 

  • http://www.askakorean.net/ The_Korean

    And that justifies mass murder, right?

  • Cloud

     Well if she has hot water (which you didn’t mention if she does or not) then she just needs a spray nozzle, tile floors, a drain and she has a shower! $150. You’re welcome.

    Is her phone a smart phone?

  • http://www.askakorean.net/ The_Korean

    If I did not mention anything about hot water, why did you assume that, other than to be an asshole? She doesn’t want a shower, so we did not build it for her. Given that she can hardly stand for more than 3 minutes at a time, it is not necessary.

    Her phone is not a smart phone. We avoided that on purpose. She still holds the phone upside down sometimes and complains that she can’t hear anything, so did not want to go the smart phone route.

  • LazyassBruiser

    No indeed it doesn’t, but the problem of democracy failures in too many developing countries is all too real.

    Even because often these countries are democratic only in name, with rampant levels of human rights abuse at every level of society, India is a prime example of that.

    I take no stand in this, i respect democratization activists, if anything cos they display a level of physical courage most people don’t possess. On the other hand i’m really not sure a decent economic growth process can be activated from a very low base with a democratic government.

    Evidence is not encouraging

  • wangkon936

    What “mythology” are you referring to?

  • Cloud

     Oh TheKorean, you’re so easy! Why are you so easy? Haha, you even answered my question about the smart phone. Of course she doesn’t have a smart phone.  She’s 96 years old! Tiny buttons. Touch screen.

  • Arghaeri

    Only if you can’t see the difference between the circumstances then and now and the fact that she states she will not follow the same path as her father. If you can’t see the difference then you are irredemiably lost in your vitriol.

  • Arghaeri

    Pretty much nothing justifies it, but what happened, happened, move on.

  • http://www.askakorean.net/ The_Korean

    You are saying that the circumstances then, as opposed to the circumstances now, justified an armed coup that usurped democracy. Hence, my first point: “It’s reasonable only if one thinks Korea did not deserve democracy in 1960.”

    The relevant question is simple: “Is it right or wrong to overthrow a democratically elected government with tanks and guns?” PGH’s answer is: “It was fine in the 1960s, but not any more.” If you consider it reasonable, then you are agreeing that it was fine to ignore democracy in Korea during the 1960s. You can dance around it all you want, but the conclusion is quite plain.

  • http://www.askakorean.net/ The_Korean

    Let’s have your family imprisoned, beaten and tortured for years while trying to do the right thing, and see how well you move on.

  • http://www.askakorean.net/ The_Korean

     My fault for giving you a chance.

  • Shin

    “and is akin to a constitutional federal republic”

    I never said SK is a constitutional federal republic
    Look up what akin means again

    In a sense SK has some ideas of American federalism in its political structure due to the influence of Korean Americans imparting their education into the formation of the 1st republic.  For example the bicameral legislature was introduced.  Since some of these ideas somehow survived all the way to the 6th republic SK does have SOME elements of American style federalism in the system, but not enough to make it a federal government.  Hence SK is AKIN to a federal republic, but not in its entirety.

    Basically right now SK’s government shares more in common with America’s government than it does with most Unitarian nations, but you are indeed right to say SK is a unitary republic.

  • Shin

    If you don’t know the difference between a democracy and a republic then think of it this way.  Democracy decides things based on rule of the masses.  What 51% wants is irrefutable by the other 49%.  A republic is set up to reduce the prevalence of mob rule.  That is the most basics of the difference.  If you want to know the other differences read up on it as I won’t right a 10 page essay for you.

  • Shin

     yeah… never mind the fact that India invaded several smaller ethnic Indian states against their will to create a greater Indian state.  Hyderabad ring any bells?
    As for your criticism of “useless material crap,” I dare you say that to the millions of starving Indians.  Given a choice between materialism and starvation I know what people will chose.

  • Shin

     In fact certain security situations do justify dictatorship.  SK before PCH might as well not have a government at all and be invaded by NK.  PCH re-established a working government that could counter a NK invasion.  He secured SK’s future… so yes dictatorships can be justified.

  • Shin

     hahaha!  So undermining stability is “the right thing?”  Thank god you live in America so there is one less leftist for the Korean people to contend with.

  • http://www.askakorean.net/ The_Korean

    Across the Armistice Line, Kim Jong-Un is saying the exact same thing.

  • dba7

    Many people don’t understand the absolute poverty S Korea was stuck in just a few decades ago. Korea didn’t have much before the Korean War and what little was there got WIPED out during the war. When you read a stat that Korea was one of THE poorest nation in the world in 50s, 60s, you should believe it.

    Now was PCH a dictator? Maybe. But was he a dictator like Kim of N Korea or Mao or Stalin? No. Of course not. He didn’t run concentration camps. Were some people arrested and jailed/beaten without proper due process (you know like the American kind)? Yes. But that happened and happens everywhere. Ever heard of stories of police brutality in US?

    Another trait of dictator is using the power to amass piles of money in some hidden private bank acct or take bribe in the process. Even the vaunted Korean politicians who fought for democracy in S Korea, the ones who opposed the authoritarian govt in Korea took bribe from ones asking for favor or even the govt itself who wanted to buy silence. DJ took bribe from Chun administration who wanted him silenced. Roh, one before MB, took bribe and that led to his suicide. And of course Chun and his successor (ex-generals who also took power using the military) simply shoveled money into their private bank accounts. SURPRISINGLY, I don’t read much if at all about PCH piling money in personal bank acct.

    PCH claimed he took power because he was sick of the state of the country and wanted to do something about it. And he obviously delivered, while largely avoiding the mistake of getting sucked into piling money into his personal acct.

    What PCH accomplished for S Korea is admirable and (yes i feel pain saying this) I’m pretty sure S Korea couldn’t have achieved the level of democracy enjoyed now in S Korea, IF PCH didn’t bring about the start of the rise of the economy.

    He will be branded a dictator by some (true) but he also started the rise of the modern Korea (true). And I firmly believe he wouldn’t mind being branded a dictator as long as he was able to deliver what he promised, which was to bring S Korea out of the pit of poverty the nation was in.

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