Bicentennial Man: Ford '76 and Beyond

Wondering what Ford's approval ratings are looking like in 1979?

Hoping Betty's drinking doesn't escalate even further because it's getting bad.
They were on the upswing before the Venezuela shock and probably recover a bit again after the Energy Policy Act passes and he’s seen as doing something in response to the frequent energy supply shocks
Love to see a chapter on Betty Ford & how the Ford family will do major intervention to save her life from massive alcoholism.

Assuming Rocky still dies on January 26, 1979 in this timeline as he did in real life?
The 11.17 Incident
The 11.17 Incident

"...the subversives, what you say are just student protestors or activists or democrats? I think they're agitators, socialists, they're communists, they're plotting to overthrow the government. You know what is only kilometers from Seoul as well as I do. Our society has grown much richer in the last twenty years under President Park and I think maybe that's made some of our people soft, made them forget the hardness of my generation. Well, we can correct that..."

- Cha Ji-chul, November 15, 1979

President Park was out of the hospital after a week and sent to recuperate at the Blue House; in his absence, the Republic of Korea's government had so degenerated into factionalism that it was unclear in the immediate weeks after what exactly would be there for him to govern once he recovered fully from the gunshot wounds. His chief bodyguard and security advisor, Cha Ji-chul, had managed to get along with Chun Doo-hwan for only a matter of days before they turned on one another. Chun had turned his Security Command into its own power center with the vacuum in the place of the KCIA; for Cha, who now saw conspiracy behind every corner, this made Chun unreliable and he grated at the upstart general's naked ambition. Having also narrowly survived Kim Jae-gyu's attempt, everything was a potential danger - the Americans, even, who were thought to be behind the mass democracy protests that had rocked the country all autumn.

As Cha and Chun feuded and spent Park's convalescence at home with his children maneuvering their own people into key positions as best they could, Army Chief of Staff Jeong Seung-hwa was more alarmed by his concern of a North Korean surprise attack and was in close contact at all times with the counterparts of American forces in Korea. Washington, for its matter, was concerned enough to maneuver one aircraft carrier into the Korean Sea and another was en route to the Sea of Japan; two carrier groups was what was broadly thought as being necessary to carry out operations against the DPRK on short notice to prevent the fall of South Korea, and back-channel messages were sent to Pyongyang through the Soviets to explain the American position and make sure the buildup was not mistaken as an offensive move. The mood was tense; it was made worse by Cha's fateful decision to mobilize his personally loyal division in Seoul on the 16th of November and attempt to seize control of the city in the middle of the night.

Why exactly Cha made the move is still debated in Korea to this day. Park did not give the order; Chun had made a number of arrests but nobody who would threaten Cha's circle. Jeong, chief Presidential Secretary Kim Gye-won and Prime Minister Choi Kyu-hah had largely stayed above the fray, declining to involve themselves in the dispute and carry on "normal order;" besides, in Jeung's view, Seoul was already under martial law.

The candlelight vigil for Park's recovery on the 15th was the ostensible trigger for the bloodshed that followed, when pro-democracy protestors poured out into Seoul's streets and confronted those in silent reflection. Though the police and Jeung's soldiers beat and arrested many, the spontaneous display of anti-regime activity at an event of somber support for Park was the final straw. When protests burst out in Busan in violation of martial law - somehow, ordinary Koreans could sense that the government was tottering as they had all fall - over the behavior of the army in Seoul the previous day, Cha made his move.

The attempted autogolpe in Seoul - Cha's mobilization and attack against Chun, Jeong and Choi was alleged to have been done to prevent them from launching their own takeover, either in concert or individually, against Park - was a disaster, both for Cha and for Korea more generally. Jeong's regulars responded with force, and Army units were now shooting at each other in the streets. Cha's personally loyal elite cadres gunned down protestors in the early morning once news spread by word of mouth through the city that something was amiss, but they were unable to seize the crucial broadcasting centers in the city before Jeong did, who order the capital garrison commander, Jang Tae-wan, to immediately cut communications out of Seoul so Cha could not reach sympathetic officers elsewhere in the country, while using military radios to coordinate a response with forces elsewhere in the country (particularly on the DMZ) and to make sure John Wickham, head of US Forces in Korea at that time, was kept appraised so that Washington could be kept in the loop. Chun, for his part, was blindsided that his mighty intelligence apparatus had apparently missed this sudden coup attempt and was so convinced that Cha was coming for him that he immediately fled the city to Gimpo International Airport, where he waited on a fueled jet for seven hours until it was clear what was going on.

Chun did not take off that day, but somebody else did - Park Chung-hee. Miscommunication between Cha and the Blue House left Park's doctors (and his children) thinking that a deeper conspiracy had just launched against him to finish the job and he was evacuated by helicopter to Gimpo where he and his family were loaded on a plane and flew off, first to Jeju Island and then to Okinawa. It was only in Okinawa that he finally learned that Cha had attempted to seize other members of the government and that he had nearly triggered a civil war in the capital. Nearly two hundred died that night, over half of them civilians; Jeong would remark in later years that ordinary Koreans seemed to have been "shot for sport" and had Cha succeeded, he would likely have killed tens of thousands of Koreans in various purges over the following months and years and likely overthrown Park himself eventually. Half a world away, the reaction in Washington was nothing short of shocked silence and worry that another key Asian ally was about to collapse.

Cha's failure ended with a raid on his command post at the Ministry of Defense, led by special forces commander Jeong Byeong-ju. He committed suicide once he realized his position was lost. With his death he left behind a deeply divided, even more unstable country, with Choi now Acting President atop a house of cards of a military dictatorship rapidly hurtling towards its demise - and that was to say nothing of North Korea, where Kim Il-sung was stunned by the internecine bloodletting south of the DMZ and wondered if this was an opportunity to sow true chaos...
Thanks. I'm amazed that you managed to work out what would have happened as always. Love your work and can't wait for more.
Thanks! I stumbled across a different (abandoned) TL that suggested a surviving Park/Cha would have gone full Tiananmen in 1979 but I was personally skeptical the US/intra-regime opponents would stand idly by and let that happen so went with something a little tamer

(And I liked the idea of these various autocrats hiding on ready Jets at the airport while the shit hits the fan)
Thanks! I stumbled across a different (abandoned) TL that suggested a surviving Park/Cha would have gone full Tiananmen in 1979 but I was personally skeptical the US/intra-regime opponents would stand idly by and let that happen so went with something a little tamer

(And I liked the idea of these various autocrats hiding on ready Jets at the airport while the shit hits the fan)
Now that you mentioned it, I always thought of one historical event that might have made an interesting timeline: North Koreans sent commandos to the Blue House to try to assassinate Park and decapitate him in 1968. They got close to the Blue House but got stopped before they could enter it, and majority of them were hunted down by Americans and South Koreans and killed. Wonder what would have happened if the attackers succeeded, after all the Americans were still bogged down in Vietnam then. But that's another story.

Now, Park is in Okinawa, the PM as acting president, and Chun and Jeong are still active. Looking forward to see what happens next. Added into the mix Kim Il-sung plotting a potential move. Still sounds like few minefields waiting to be crossed.

Its a sad reflection that Park was surrounded by a real bunch of crazies like Cha (who nearly started a civil war) and Kim Jae gyu (who saw the necessity to shoot Park himself), both of whom acted on their own accord, whatever their reason was.

Finally, IOTL when Chun pulled off his coup, I read somewhere that he did so by pulling troops off the DMZ to seize power with extra men, leaving the DMZ exposed to the North. And the Americans would not forgive that.
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