Spit on my grave - a Republic of Korea TL

Chapter 1: Point of Divergence

August 15, 1974.

The man sweated heavily in his seat. It was the height of summer, so it was not unreasonable for men like him to suffer in the heat. But this was not the case for Mun Se-gwang. He was sweating in anticipation for what was to come. Sitting in the back seat of the National Central Theater, Mun nervously patted his .38 revolver in his right pocket while he looked left and right in case somebody noticed the conspicuous bulge at his pants. I should’ve killed him then and there[1], he thought. Scum like him shouldn’t live a second more in this world. The scum he referred to stood up, walked up to the podium and started his speech.

“Dear citizens of the Republic of Korea, I celebrate with you the 29th anniversary of the liberation of our nation…”

Mun stood up from his seat. I need to get closer, he said to himself. One shot should only be necessary. He quickly walked over to the aisles. He walked down the steps toward the front, slowly this time. He should not be noticed until the final moment. He had prepared so many months for this. Ever since he had come from Japan, Mun played again and again in his head the glorious moment when he would liberate the Republic of Korea, when the damned President’s head was shot into the nothingness that he deserved to be. He put his hand in his pocket and lightly grabbed the gun, eyes fixed towards the man he knew was soon to live no more. Mun’s hands trembled. I’m almost there, he thought to himself as he walked closer. I’m almost

He felt the searing pain in his foot as he accidentally shot himself. The feeling of excruciating pain was ignored by Mun as he quickly got out his gun and started firing at the President. I must not miss, he thought, I must not miss!

But the president was already hiding behind the podium. The sound of the first shot was enough for him to dive for cover. People around Mun were screaming and running away, while security guards were shouting and shooting at him. In the havoc that erupted immediately after his fatal mistake, Mun cursed himself and his luck and shot angrily towards the stage until he was forcibly restrained.




Donga Daily

“President Park escapes Assassination”

Press secretary of the Blue House Kim Sung-jin released an overview on the assassination attempt of president Park at the National Central Theater during the opening ceremony of the 8.15 Liberation day celebrations; he stated that an unidentified individual tried to shoot at the president while he was reading the opening speech but failed and was immediately arrested.

Kim further stated that “the individual, who was seated at the front of the theater, suddenly stood up at 10:23 and tried to assassinate the president; the first bullet misfired[2], the second bullet ricocheted against the right side of the podium, and the third bullet hit Chief Bodyguard Park Jong-kyu in the arm[3]. The fourth and fifth bullets both hit the Korean flag hung on the opposite wall.”
Spit On My Grave – an ATL Thread on the Yushin Republic

[1]: His original plan was to assassinate the President at the main lobby.
[2]: An error by the press, in all its glory.
[3]: The Point of Deviation. IOTL the First Lady was killed because Mun, while trying to shoot Park, shot her instead. ITTL he does not miss.
 
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I will be making posts about two or three times per week, since it's summer vacation and all I have is time and laziness on my hands.

On that note, this is one of the Korea-centred alt threads I have been thinking about, and I supposed this one to be the easiest to tackle. So I hope you all enjoy!
 
Chapter 2: Prelude – Marching into the 1970s

By the end of the first decade after the 5.16 Putsch by Major-General Park Chung hee, South Korea had become unrecognizable from what it was in 1960. Back then, many buildings were still destroyed after the war. The oldest wooden building and famed landmark in Seoul, the Namdaemun, was still in ruins after being bombed during the vicious battles against the Communists[1]. The main exports were tungsten, dried squid and hair wigs. Exports were a mere 10% compared to the total imports that South Korea had that year[2]. A large majority of the people was still suffering from famine every spring. Leftover food from US military bases, mixed with rice and boiled over a fire, was considered a good meal[3].



The South Gate of Seoul, the Sungryemun. The gate was not properly reconstructed until 1962.


Such dire socioeconomic situations were completely upturned by 1970. The Kyungbu highway, linking the two largest cities in South Korea together, throbbed with vigour and potential. Exports reached 1 billion Korean Won[4]. The hills and mountains of Korea, once stripped bare by desperate families to feed on tree sap and bark, recovered their lush green colours, representing the promising future South Korea beheld.



Inauguration of the Kyungbu Highway.


But all was not so happy as it seemed. Every coin has two sides, and so did the old South Korean Won. On one side were the glories of wealth and economic development; on the other side were the blood, toil and tears of the South Korean people. In order to win economic support from the United States, South Korea sent thousands of its own troops to fight in jungles, dying as cannon fodder for the Americans. Even with the few that survived and came back to Korea, many were scarred physically and psychologically from Napalm bombs and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder[5]. Domestic tensions and Communist incursions, both real and imagined, forced the government to fortify its security and impound individual rights in the process.



Capture of North Korean assassin Kim Shin-jo during the 1.21 Incident, in which 31 armed North Korean troops crossed the DMZ
and almost reached the Presidential palace, where they were noticed and promptly killed unless they surrendered.


These trends were the preludes that led the people of South Korea into the 1970s. As a reaction of such events and situations, individuals and governments alike tried to solve or adapt to the problems.

[1]: "「서울의 상징」 남대문이 1위/「가나아트」지 설문", 《경향신문》, 1994년 11월 15일 작성.
[2]: Have you heard of Johnson Soup? Budaejigae's US military-based cousin. TVREPORT, 2011.4.28.
[3]: “South Korea is most successful country after WWII”, Korean Policy Portal, 2008-09-02.
[4]: 1970년 - 경부 고속도로 준공식, 수출 10억 달러 달성, 국방과학연구소 설립, 새마을 운동 제창
[5]: 고엽제후유의증 미망인회. 월남전 고엽제피해 미망인 모임, 공지사항, 사진갤러리, 커뮤니티 등 수록. www.vwmf.co.kr.
 
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Chapter 3: Context #1 - Chun Tae-il


Name: Chun, Tae-il
성명: 전 태일

Identity: Labourer
소속: 노동자

Date of birth/death: 26th August 1948/13th November 1970
태생/사망 생년월일: 1948년 8월 26일/1970년 11월 13일

Place of birth/death: Taegu, Northern Kyeungsang Province/Jung-gu, Seoul Special City
태생/사망 장소: 경상북도 대구/서울직할시 중구

Reason(s) for death: Self-immolation
사망 이유: 분신 (焚身)​

There were several Pyeonghwa markets around South Korea, usually in big cities such as Pusan, Seoul or Taegu. In Seoul, the Pyeonghwa market was located around the Chunggye Stream, a major slums area north of the Han River[1]. It is believed that North Korean refugees who became merchants named the market “Pyeonghwa(meaning ‘Peace’ in Korean)” in their wish for “peaceful reunification”. The North Korean refugees, working as textile makers, often made clothes by either dyeing leftover U.S. Army uniforms or making from scratch with a sewing machine. The textile industry, including that in the Pyeonghwa market, grew tremendously along with economic development in the rest of South Korea.



A slums region around Chunggye stream.

South Korea’s economic development was initially spurred and continued largely by two main aspects of the Korean economy. Firstly, it had firm U.S. support. After WWII and the stabilisation of the Cold War, the United States allowed Japan, the Republic of China and its other allies, including South Korea, to sell its products without setbacks to the US. This gave South Korea an enormous boost to develop their economy and industry, as was the Americans’ intent. The second half of its development was a characteristic parallel to any other developing nation: South Korea’s working population gained very low wages. Because the wages were so low, the price level of the goods produced also were very low and thus had an advantage in the market[2].



South Korea exports various goods at a lower price than others.

This was not a situation that could be continued, however. As the level of education became higher in Korea, so did the general intellect of the working class and thus their desire to work for higher wages. However, the working situation in South Korea was far from what they wanted. Sweatshops forced their workers to be in cramped positions, often without lights in the basement. Many worked for as long as 14 hours per day. Children were often employed for their lower wages. Although it was typical for workers to catch lung-related diseases, employers made no effort to stop their workers from suffering in horrendous conditions.



A wig factory. This is of significantly better quality than the average South Korean sweatshop.

Chun Tae-il was, perhaps, the epitome of that new emerging working class. Born in 1948, he was the oldest son from a family of two sons and two daughters. After they escaped to Pusan from Taegu during the Korean War, his father’s enterprise was sabotaged and the money cheated away by his business partner. Forced to find work, the family moved to Seoul. Due to the lack of money to support education, Chun only went to Primary school and later studied by himself by borrowing books from the library. When his father became bankrupt in 1960, Chun became the breadwinner of the family; by 1966, Chun had earned enough money that the family could live together again.



Chun Tae-il, the starting point of all Korean labour unions.

Chun also witnessed the horrendous conditions of the sweatshops where he worked. Spurred by a sense of justice and nationalism, Chun went around the area and recorded data, such as the average wage of the workers or their working hours. After realizing that these data support the fact that the factories are not abiding the Labour Standards Act of 1953, he decided to forward a petition to President Park. Although the letter never reached the president, excerpts show Chun’s determination to make South Korea a better country:

“Esteemed Mr. President, I hope you are well. I am a worker in the textiles industry. You are the source of our vitality. We regard your success after the Revolution highly.

In my desperation I contacted the Labour Bureau and the municipal Labour Superintendent and requested his administration. There still was no change after inspectors from the Labour Bureau had arrived. These people rest only 2 days per month; even the strongest bodies becomes weary in such conditions.

Only 2 or 3 from the whole factory go through a nominal health check at the hospital controlled by the Pyeonghwa Market Inc. Even the X-rays are done without turning them on; the factories have no course of procedure after a worker has passed away. Is this because the health fee of 300 Won is paid by the factory? Is this because everyone is physically fit? Or is this the only option for economic development of our nation? Please protect the rights of our fellow female workers. Mr. President, you are the father of our nation(國父). Thus, you are our father. We, sir, are telling you where we are in pain. Please heal where we are hurt. It is wrong for us to resent you without notifying where we are wounded.

We pledge that these are not challenging requests. These are simple requirements for human life. These are demands that can be easily met by firms.”[3]
Frustrated by the apparent lack of answer from President Park, Chun took to the streets and instigated riots that called for labourers’ rights. Despite such attempts, the Labour Bureau was unwilling to compromise and was instead making false promises; after giving a formal statement that they will “change the legislation” by the 7th of November, there was no such action during that date. Incensed, Chun planned a ceremonial burning of the “useless” Labour Standards Act, and it was planned for the 13th. And on that day, Chun led the riot yelling, “We are not machines![4]” and proceeded to burn a copy of the legislation. However, the police and firm-owners retaliated quickly and the demonstration was quickly subdued. Suddenly, Chun was seen engulfed in flames and on the main street of the Pyeonghwa Market, yelling “Adhere to the Labour Standards Act”, “Do not exploit workers” and “We are not machines! Let us rest on Sundays”. Due to the general shock of what had happened, Chun was left burning for about 3 minutes until his friend beat away the flames with his jacket[5]. He passed away 10 at night the same day, after having been discarded by the hospital for having no possibility of survival.



Chun's mother mourns his son's death. She soon also becomes a labour union leader.

Chun later became known as “Comrade Chun”, leader of the Korean labour union movement and a cry for action against the corrupt system infested with firm lobbyists and inept bureaucrats. Several organised labour unions formed out of his death, such as the Chunggye Textile Workers’ Labour Union or the Labour Class(a course that educated workers of their rights and obligations). The latter especially was famed for having been publicly endorsed by Yuk Young-soo, the First Lady of South Korea[6].



Yuk Young-soo, the First Lady of the Republic of Korea.

[1]: 평화시장이 걸어온길 (한국일보 2001.1.4일자 재인용), 평화시장 웹 사이트.
[2]: 한국 'IMF 졸업' 공식 선언, 인터넷한겨레 2000년 8월 24일.
[3]: 권태억, 《근현대 한국 탐사》 (역사비평사, 2007) 398~400페이지
[4]: 전태일·조영래와 함께한 휴가, 오마이뉴스. 2007.08.08.
[5]: 조영래, 《전태일 평전:어느 청년 노동자의 삶과 죽음》 (돌베개, 1991) 283페이지
[6]: [1970 박정희부터 선데이서울까지](24) ‘퍼스트레이디’ 육영수, 경향신문. 2014.01.24.
 
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Delta Force

Banned
Interested in seeing this timeline develop. There aren't too many dealing with modern history outside of the Americas and Europe.
 
Chapter 4: Context #2 - Yushin Constitution

Name: Yushin Constitution
명칭: 유신 헌법

Identity: Legislation
소속: 법(法)

Alternate name: Republic of Korea Constitution No. 8
약칭: 유신헌법, 대한민국 헌법 제 8호

Date of ratification: December 27, 1972
제정일자: 1972년 12월 27일

Current status: Invalid, retracted and replaced on January 21, 1984 with previous Constitution[1]
상태: 1984년 1월 21일에 헌법 제 7호로 계엄령과 함께 헤제

Reason(s) for Invalidation: Preparation for the Olympic Games
헤제 사유: 84년 서울 올림픽 개췌 준비[2]​

Signing of the Treaty of Basic Relations between the Republic of Korea and Japan, on the summer day of June 22th 1965, was a watershed moment for Korea. It was from that point on that Korea saw the permeation of Japanese technology and science into its own society and economy, allowing quicker development. By the treaty, South Korea had a better footing on Korea-Japan relations than North Korea, as the former naturalized relations faster than the latter. It was, however, most important due to its compensatory payment, by Japan to Korea, regarding its 35-year rule over the peninsula during the height of Neo-Imperialism.


Korean and Japanese foreign ministers sign the Treaty of Basic Relations between the Republic of Korea and Japan.

This compensation, unfortunately, brought forth many problems. Unlike demands made by previous presidents, or unlike demands made and met by other Asian leaders, Park was willing to compensate 35 years of foreign tyranny and complete exploitation with a “mere” amount of 800 million US dollars. Rhee Syngman, the first president and notorious anti-Japanese supporter, requested 2 billion dollars and the subsequent Yoon Bo-seon officially asked for 2.85 billion dollars[3]. Even Marcos from the Philippines, for reference, received 1 billion dollars as a form of financial compensation.


Protests by Japanese citizens against anti-Japanese Rhee Syngman's "Syngman Rhee Line", a maritime border between South Korea and Japan.

President Park and the individuals who signed the Treaty of Basic Relations, however, believed otherwise. Their vision did not end at the small sum of money but saw the vast array of technological innovations Korea could not gain access to through the treaty. Kim Jong-pil, Director of the Korea Central Intelligence Agency and undercover attaché to Japan during the convention, stated “I may be called Ye Wanyong[Prime Minister of the Korean Empire, led to Japanese annexation of Korea], but I knew this was the only way. Did we not utilize the small amount of money we had to quickly build factories and advance technologically? I have no regrets.”[4]


The Pohang steel mill was constructed in part by using some of the funds given as a result of the Treaty.

The people did not think so, however. When the government announced the progress of the Convention and their determination to sign the Treaty, a group of leaders from various social strata gathered and proclaimed their aggressive refusal to allow the government to sign the treaty; the group, which included all Minority parties from the House of Parliament, defined the Treaty as another “Korea-Japan Treaty of Annexation”. Led by former president Yoon Bo-seon and Quaker human rights activist Ham Seok-heon, the self-proclaimed “All-People’s Front Against Brownnosing Diplomacy Towards Japan” supported hunger strikes by university students, funerals held in schools for the “death of nationalist democracy”[5] and ultimately, civil unrest.


The All-People's Front lead the riots with direct and indirect support.

On noon of June 3rd, 12,000 students rushed against barricades towards the Blue House. Effigies of Park Chung-hee, Kim Jong-pil and PM Hayato Ikeda were burnt; mock trials were held for defendant Oh Il-lyuk(personification of the 5.16 Revolution led by Park). Soon enough, despite attempted disruptions of the riots by the police through tear gas, 30,000 students from 15 universities around Seoul occupied the House of Parliament building to make their voice heard. The demonstration was led by class presidents, namely Kim Chai-ha from Korea University(student president and overall leader of the revolt), Yi Kyung-woo(vice president and representative of the Law School division) and Lee Myung-bak[6](representative of the Commerce School division), amongst others.


Students protest the Treaty in the streets of Seoul.

Frustrated by the lack of solidarity of the people in such a situation, Park Chung-hee ordered martial law over the Direct-controlled Municipality of Seoul. Believing the People’s Revolutionary Party to be behind the civil unrest, along with the constant belligerent rhetoric of Kim Il-sung’s call for South Koreans to “liberate” themselves[7], the KCIA arrested the student leaders, politicians and reporters who were related to the riots. While the number arrested amounted to 1,120 individuals, 350 of them were imprisoned for 6 months.


Martial Law decreed over Seoul, June 3rd 1964.

Yun Bo-seon continuously urged the Korean people to rise up against “a President without a political standing”; when armed soldiers threatened the pro-riots news agency Tonga Ilbo, Yun berated the act as “an epitome of dictatorship as a direct confrontation, suppression and even obliteration of the press.” According to Major-General Roh Tae-woo[8], Park had felt betrayed during this time due to his strenuous efforts in bettering the country by signing the Treaty and the peoples’ negative response. It is also said that it was through this incident that Park felt animosity towards Yoon[9], who was willing to conduct “street-level politics” for a civil uprising and a successful regaining of power.


Yoon Bo-seon gives a speech in front of the masses.

A more direct reason that is recognizable which leads to the Yushin Constitution, however, is the 1.21 Incident of 1968. On midnight of the 21st of January, 31 armed North Korean soldiers from Unit 124(Special Operations unit) crossed the DMZ and headed towards the Blue House at marching speed of 7 miles per hour. After changing to South Korean uniform and marching towards the Blue House, they were noted for their strange actions[10] and gunfight promptly ensued. After several hours of extensive roundup of the elite unit, South Korean soldiers seized two North Koreans, one of whom committed suicide upon capture.


Bodies of the 30 North Korean soldiers who were killed during the battle that ensued.

What was more notable than the actual incident was the response from the United States government. While reaction towards the 1.21 incident was almost nonexistent and ambiguous, the US acted comparably forcibly and strongly in the Pueblo Incident that occurred several days later. This affected Park deeply, leading him to believe that the United States did not take South Korea in very high regard; in fact, Park was personally distressed by incident for having been so close to death and the US’s lack of proper response upon it[11]. The difference in U.S. response from the two incidents were so great that they accentuated the break in South Korea-US relations.


The crew were repatriated after months of stagnant negotiations. During the time, Park's near-death experience was on the sidelines.

Although only two incidents- the 6.3 Riots and the 1.21 Incident- have been mentioned, there were numerous other smaller factors which led up to the promulgation of the Yushin Constitution. It was politically awkward for Park to change the constitution every time to allow him for reelections when he had already been elected three times; the last election, which was held in 1971, was a very close match for Park against Kim Dae-jung[12].


Kim Dae-jung, from the New Democratic Party, gives a speech during the election season.

In a motion against the South Korean constitution, a general referendum was held after declaring martial law; the Yushin Constitution was declared the official legislation that serves as a basis of the new Republic with an overwhelming 91.5% majority[12]. The scholar- and prosecutor-made law was mainly about the establishment of the People’s Self-Reunification Board, which allowed indirect elections of the President and certainly allowed Park Chung-hee to rule for a long time.


The Yushin Constitution is declared on the 27th of December, 1972.

While there were incessant protests against the legislation, South Korea’s economic and infrastructural development soon led voices against the government to die off. Therefore, in the eve of the Seoul Olympic Games of 1984[13], the legislation was invalidated and martial law was disbanded accordingly. Martial law was, since then, never declared nationwide until many years later.


Lighting the flame cauldron during the 1984 Olympics opening ceremony.

[1]: Differences from OTL. Due to legality of reelections, Park steps down from presidency and becomes Chief Minister of the Republic of Korea.
[2]: Similar to situations during the 88 Seoul Olympics OTL.
[3]: Park is asking for the costs for South Korea, while previous presidents asked for the costs on all of Korea.
[4]: 막후선 김종필·오히라, 결단은 박정희·이케다, 중앙일보, 박소영 기자, 2005.01.18
[5]: 윤보선, 《외로운 선택의 나날들:윤보선회고록》 (동아일보사, 1991) 290페이지
[6]: Lee is OTL former President of South Korea. The 6.3 Riots was greatly used as propaganda in his favour during the election campaign.
[7]: Jager, Sheila M. Profile Books, London. Brothers At War: The Unending Conflict in Korea. p388~400.
[8]: Roh was president OTL but I do not plan on him going into politics TTL. He only became president because he was a close companion of Chun.
[9]: 기자 趙 甲 濟 의 세 계 : Cho Gab-Je The Investigative Reporter's World
[10]: Charles K. Armstrong (2013). Tyranny of the Weak:North Korea and the World, 1950–1992. Cornell University Press. p. 162.
[11]: Jager, Sheila M. Profile Books, London. Brothers At War: The Unending Conflict in Korea. p401.
[12]: Nohlen, D, Grotz, F & Hartmann, C (2001) Elections in Asia: A data handbook, Volume II, p420
[13]: OTL Park had already planned for the Olympic games, but due to his death the bidding process was only possible for 1988.
*1984 would also be the year Park finishes his third election as president. So, the constitution can go nice and clean.
 
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Updates are gonna be slow now, unfortunately.
Unless you can help me explain to my mother how alternate history helps me in high school and college applications :D
 
Unless you can help me explain to my mother how alternate history helps me in high school and college applications :D
It enhances your ability to think critically. In order to write good alternate history, you need not just a grasp of what happened in history, but why it happened: what social pressures, political movements, economic conditions, leaders, etc influenced it. In order to write a convincing PoD, you must know a lot more than the usual broad points of history, but also the also-rans. What movements and figures could have hada much bigger impact (with only small changes) than they did in our TL, and what might have happened if they did? It also refines your ability to think heuristically, to see how movements, conditions, and events on one side of the world can effect the other. This, in my opinion, is a rare and valuable skill. Finally, writing ability improves with practice. IF AH is what gets you to sit down and write for fun, then that is what you should write. The ability to write well is valuable in almost any major or career.

There, I gave it my best shot. I don`t know if your mother will buy it, but I think it is true...
 
Very helpful to understand the mechanics of the South Korean society. I do wonder, will the North have a shot at breaking the bond between the US and SK.
 
Context #3: First Oil Crisis

Identity: incident
정체: 사건

Duration of incident(s): October 1973 ~ March 1974
상황 진행 기간: 1973년 10월 ~ 1974년 5월

Triggering incident(s): Yom Kippur War, Nixon Shock, advent of the “Oil Weapon”
유발 요소: 제4차 중동전쟁, 닉슨 쇼크, 석유의 무기화 등

Effect(s) of event: end of Yom Kippur War, buildup of Strategic Oil Reserves
사건 영향: 제4차 중동전쟁 종전, 각국 원유 비축화

State-level analysis: reveal flaws in South Korean economic system
국가정책적 의의: 대한민국 경제체제의 문제점 고발



This is an excerpt from the page “Long-term Strategic Economic Plans” of the Korean People’s Cultural Encyclopedia:

…In the case for South Korea, its basic philosophy of “government-guided capitalism”, planned accumulation and allocation of domestic and foreign capital and direct control over and fostering of major industries since the First 5-year Economic Plan led it to be the best-known example of a successful government-led economic strategy.

It is important to note that intensive concentration of investment at industries with higher long-term yield is called “non-balanced development strategy”, while evenhanded investment in all field of industries and thus the expansion of the intra-connected domestic market demand is defined as a “balanced development strategy”.

Also, “export-oriented industrialization” is a situation where industries are developed centred around foreign capital and the global market, while the opposite is called “domestic-oriented industrialization” where development is focused at domestic capital and the domestic market.

The latter, due to its nature of replacing foreign-based products with domestically produced goods for internal industry development, is alternately called “import substitution”; the former, with its developmental objective as the global market, is known as “export-oriented development”. South Korea, in its case, pursued “import substitution” in the 1960s and “export-oriented development” in the 1970s due to the diminutive size of the domestic market and scarcity of resources or technology.

The epitome of "export-oriented development"- the Hyundai Pony, displayed at the Torino 1974 Automobiles Fair.

As such, Park’s Third Republic was not left with many options. If it wanted to economically develop at record speed, it needed strong firms with name value, and fast. It was, perhaps, inevitable that the regime became closely connected with corporations, fostering them, forcing them to enter blue-ocean markets, shaping their expertise industries and always keeping one from each other in case overparticipation “crowded out” a market. Soon enough, however, the weakling firms that the regime brought forth from the ruins of war became large enough to influence governmental policies; firm lobbyists began to flood the House of Parliament in Seoul and began to shape government policies to their own advantage[3].


Kim Jae-kyu, minister of the Construction and National Development department, is brought forth to court in allegations of embezzlement[2].
His trial was the first of the numerous other trials that brought members of government to be prosecuted with anti-corruption laws.

Even these “firms”, however, were still too small to stand against the tides of the world market. Although they came a long way from 1961, many of the firms were still insignificant compared to the conglomerates and global-tier firms in the US, Japan and Germany. For Japan especially, many of the firms based in South Korea produced the labor-intensive and environmentally hazardous components of its products[4]. After the creation of the Environmental Agency(環境省) in Japan, the nascent petrochemical and steel industries were willing to take whatever they were offered to produce from their neighbors and thus bring advanced technology from abroad.


Highly publicised victims of pollution, such as this child stricken with the Minamata disease[4],
forced Japanese corporations to move less environmentally-friendly industries to South Korea.

It was, perhaps, a blessing that the oil-based industries were still too small to be affected by the first Oil Crisis. When Arab nations were in a tight spot from having attacked Israel, they attempted to use oil as diplomatic leverage, enforcing an embargo against “countries hostile” towards the Arab world, such as the United States, western Europe and Japan. As most of these nations did not have large enough oil reserves or did not have oil reserves at all, oil prices skyrocketed and economic development stumbled. While South Korea was insignificantly small enough to not be hurt in 1972, things would not be the same in 1979 when South Korea began to have a booming heavy industry[5].


Myeongdong District, Seoul. The neon signs are not turned on due to the national energy-saving movement.
The infamous "fan death" conspiracy also arose from such circumstances.

The Oil crisis was not the only disaster that happened that year, however. On the 3rd of August, Park ordered the loan freeze of all corporate assets, thus saving all major firms from bankruptcy. The sudden renewal of all financial contracts between borrowers and lenders meant that individuals, who comprised 90% of all corporate loans, were now unable to get their money back. The President’s orders, by sacrificing small and middle-size firms, put large conglomerates into a position that allowed them to believe that their security was ensured by the government- in short, the Chaebols became more confident in themselves and began to more actively participate in politics, as previously mentioned.


Chun Doo-hwan is brought forth to court in 1996 for reevaluation of his embezzlement case.

This, however, was used as a “shock treatment” where corporations reformed their fiscal systems and was seen to have saved firms from further bankruptcies. Firms also generally tended to borrow less money, leading to a decrease of debts. Although the conglomerates later caused great pain within the nation and forced economic reforms[6], they led the economic development of South Korea for decades to come. As the one time when the government actively supported corporations, it firmly placed firms as the engine that would lead Park’s Republic into the world of developed nations.


The automobile industry is one of the major factors of the South Korean economy.

[1]: 政經癒着 (정경유착): 기업가는 정치인에게 정치 자금을 제공하고 정치인은 반대 급부로 기업가에게 여러 가지 특혜를 베푸는 것과 같은, 정치인과 기업가 사이의 부도덕한 밀착 관계를 의미
[2]: 김재규 내연녀 ‘10억땅’ 소송 이겼다 경향신문 2006.02.08
[3]: 『공해(公害)와 대책』(권숙표·윤명조·정용, 중앙경제사, 1973)
[4]: Oiwa, Keibo. (2001). Rowing the Eternal Sea: The Story of a Minamata Fisherman. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. ISBN 0-7425-0021-7
[5]: Barsky, Robert B. & Kilian, Lutz (2004). "Oil and the Macroeconomy since the 1970s". The Journal of Economic Perspectives 18 (4): 115–134 [p. 115].
[6]: Lee-Jay Cho, Somi Seong, and Sang-Hyop Lee, ed. (2007). Institutional and Policy Reforms to Enhance Corporate Efficiency in Korea. Seoul: Korea Development Institute. ISBN 978-89-8063-305-0.
 
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