Kim Jae-gyu

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Kim Jae-gyu
Kim Jae-gyu portrait.jpg
Born( 1926 -03-06)March 6, 1926
Seonsangun, Gyeongsangbuk-do, Japanese Korea
Died May 24, 1980 ( 1980 -05-24) (aged 54)
Seoul, South Korea
Cause of death Execution by hanging
Residence Seoul, South Korea
Education Hanyang University graduate Engineering Master
Occupation Soldier, Jeongmujik government official
Spouse(s) Kim Young Hee
Korean name
Revised Romanization Gim Jaegyu
McCune–Reischauer Kim Chaegyu
Pen name
Revised Romanization Deoksan
McCune–Reischauer Tŏksan

Kim Jae-gyu (Hangul: 김재규, March 6, 1926 – May 24, 1980) was a South Korean Army Lieutenant General and the director of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency. He assassinated South Korean President Park Chung-hee who had been one of his closest friendson October 26, 1979, and was subsequently executed by hanging on May 24, 1980.

Hangul Native alphabet of the Korean language

The Korean alphabet, known as Hangul, has been used to write the Korean language since its creation in the 15th century by King Sejong the Great. It may also be written as Hangeul following the standard Romanization.

Republic of Korea Army Land warfare branch of South Koreas military

The Republic of Korea Army, also known as the ROK Army, is the army of South Korea, responsible for ground-based warfare. It is the largest of the military branches of the Republic of Korea Armed Forces with 464,000 members as of 2018. This size is maintained through conscription; South Korean men must complete 21 months of military service between the age of 18 and 35.

National Intelligence Service (South Korea) intelligence agency of South Korea

The National Intelligence Service (NIS) is the chief intelligence agency of South Korea. The agency was officially established in 1961 as the Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA) (중앙정보부), during the rule of President Park Chung-hee's military Supreme Council for National Reconstruction, which displaced the Second Republic of Korea. The original duties of the KCIA were to supervise and coordinate both international and domestic intelligence activities and criminal investigation by all government intelligence agencies, including that of the military. The agency's broad powers allowed it to actively intervene in politics.


He remains a controversial figure with many contradictions: he is regarded by some as a patriot who ended Park's 18-year military dictatorship, and by others as a traitor who killed his long-time benefactor out of personal grievance. For many years, the latter was the prevailing view, but later revelations in the early 2000s about Kim's relationship with some leaders of the democracy movement prompted a re-evaluation in some circles.

Early life

Kim was born in Park Chung-hee's hometown, Gumi-si, in the southern Korean province of Gyeongsangbuk-do during the Japanese occupation. He graduated from Gyeongbuk University in 1945 and became a middle school teacher until the newly independent South Korean government established its military and created the Korea Military Academy, then called Joseon Defense Academy. He graduated from the Joseon Defense Academy in December 1946, the same year as Park Chung-hee, and from Army College in 1952. He served as a regimental commander in 1954 and as vice-president of the Army College in 1957, where Kim Gye-won was the president at the time. (Later Kim Gye-won became Chief Presidential Secretary to President Park and was present at the scene of assassination.) In 1961, when Park Chung-hee staged a military coup to seize power, Kim did not participate in the coup and was suspected of being a counterrevolutionary. He was temporarily detained until he was released on Park's order. He served Park's military dictatorship from then until his assassination of Park in 1979.

Park Chung-hee South Korean army general and the leader of South Korea from 1961 to 1979

Park Chung-hee was a South Korean politician and general who served as the President of South Korea from 1963 until his assassination in 1979, assuming that office after first ruling the country as head of a military dictatorship installed by the May 16 coup in 1961. Before his presidency, he was the chairman of the Supreme Council for National Reconstruction from 1961 to 1963 after a career as a military leader in the South Korean army.

Korea under Japanese rule Japanese occupation of Korea from 1910–1945

Korea under Japanese rule began with the end of the short-lived Korean Empire in 1910 and ended at the conclusion of World War II in 1945. Japanese rule over Korea was the outcome of a process that began with the Japan–Korea Treaty of 1876, whereby a complex coalition of the Meiji government, military, and business officials sought to integrate Korea both politically and economically into the Empire of Japan. A major stepping-stone towards the Japanese occupation of Korea was the Japan–Korea Treaty of 1905, in which the then-Korean Empire was declared a protectorate of Japan. The annexation of Korea by Japan was set up in the Japan–Korea Treaty of 1910, which was never actually signed by the Korean Regent, Gojong.

Korea Military Academy military academy

Korea Military Academy (KMA) is the leading South Korean institution for the education and training of officer cadets for the Republic of Korea Army. Along with the Korea Army Academy (Yeongcheon), it produces the largest number of senior officers in the Korean army. Commonly referred to as Hwarangdae ) as a reference to the Hwarang, an elite organization of youth leaders which existed in Korean history, it is located in Nowon-gu, a northeast district of Seoul, South Korea.

Park's dictatorship

During Park's dictatorship, Kim was appointed as the commander of Sixth Division in 1963. When there was a widespread demonstration against the Korean-Japanese treaty in 1964, which Park pursued in secret and was widely regarded to be disadvantageous to Korean fishermen, Kim's Sixth Division was dispatched to Seoul to subdue student demonstrations. Kim's handling of the situation was said to have earned Park's trust and favor. On the other hand, it is also said that Kim refused to involve the Army in arrest of civilians and left the task to the police while instead ordering his troop to occupy itself with clean-up of streets and university campus. [1] Afterward, he commanded Sixth Military District in 1966, Army Security Command in 1968, and the Third Army Group in 1971. While he was the commander of Army Security Command, a military organ whose chief function was to safeguard the dictatorship (Chun Doo-hwan was the commander of Army Security Command when he successfully staged a military coup on December 12, 1979), President Park ran for a third term in the 1971 presidential election. Kim persuaded President Park to promise to voters that it would be his last term. He also opposed the formation of Hanahoe, a secret organization formed by Chun Doo-hwan and other young officers who took personal oaths of loyalty to Park and the group itself above all else, and criticized it as a private army. (Eventually, Hanahoe staged a military coup under Chun's leadership after Park's assassination to seize power and drove out older generation of military generals.) [2]

The Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea was signed on June 22, 1965. It established basic diplomatic relations between Japan and South Korea.

Chun Doo-hwan Korean politician and army general

Chun Doo-hwan is a South Korean politician and former South Korean army general who served as the President of South Korea from 1980 to 1988, ruling as an unelected coup leader from December 1979 to September 1980 and as elected president from 1980 to 1988. Chun was sentenced to death in 1996 for his role in the Gwangju Massacre but was later pardoned by President Kim Young-sam, with the advice of then President-elect Kim Dae-jung, whom Chun's administration had sentenced to death some 20 years earlier.

Hanahoe was an unofficial private group of military officers in South Korea headed by Chun Doo-hwan, who later became the South Korean president. The members were mostly graduates of the eleventh class of the Korean Military Academy in 1955. Hanahoe formed the core of the group that eventually took control of the presidency and government from Choe Gyuha, ending the Fourth Republic.

While Kim was the commander of the Third Army Group in Kang-won Province, President Park declared national emergency and martial law, dismissed the National Assembly, and prohibited all political activities in October 1972. The purpose was to ratify the Yushin Constitution of 1972, which (a) abolished direct vote for presidential election and replaced it with indirect voting system involving delegates, (b) allotted one third of the National Assembly seats to the president, (c) gave the president the authority to issue emergency decrees and suspend the Constitution, (d) gave the president the authority to appoint all judges and dismiss the National Assembly, and (e) repealed a term limit to presidency. In the 1971 election, Park had nearly lost to opposition leader Kim Dae-jung despite spending ten percent of the national budget on his reelection campaign. The Yushin Constitution was designed to guarantee his dictatorship for life. Indeed, Park was later re-elected as the president by a unanimous vote of approximately 2,000 delegates, who all became delegates themselves with Park's approval. According to Kim's subordinate officers at Third Army Group, Kim did not hide his displeasure at learning of Yushin Constitution. [3]

Kim Dae-jung South Korean politician

Kim Dae-jung, or Kim Dae Jung, was a South Korean politician who served as President of South Korea from 1998 to 2003. He was a 2000 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, the only Korean Nobel Prize recipient in history. He was sometimes referred to as the "Nelson Mandela of South Korea".

Yushin Constitution

After his arrest, Kim wrote in Chinese calligraphy that it took seven years to accomplish his resolution, suggesting that the Yushin Constitution turned him against Park. In his trial, he claimed that he planned to detain Park if the latter were to visit the Third Army Group base on his annual tour of army groups and force his resignation. According to Third Army Group operations chief of staff Oh Soo-choon, who was also Kim's brother-in-law, Kim installed front-line fence around a small building in the base and set it up so that it would prevent exit from within rather than entry from without. [4]

Chinese calligraphy calligraphy with Chinese script

Chinese calligraphy is a form of pleasing writing (calligraphy), or, the artistic expression of human language in a tangible form. This type of expression has been widely practiced in China and has been generally held in high esteem across East Asia. Calligraphy is considered as one of the four best friends of ancient Chinese literati, along with playing stringed musical instrument, the board game “go”, and painting. There are some general standardizations of the various styles of calligraphy in this tradition. Chinese calligraphy and ink and wash painting are closely related: they are accomplished using similar tools and techniques, and have a long history of shared artistry. Distinguishing features of Chinese painting and calligraphy include an emphasis on motion charged with dynamic life. According to Stanley-Baker, "Calligraphy is sheer life experienced through energy in motion that is registered as traces on silk or paper, with time and rhythm in shifting space its main ingredients." Calligraphy has also led to the development of many forms of art in China, including seal carving, ornate paperweights, and inkstones.

More significantly, Kim appears to have had a close relationship with Jang Jun-ha, widely respected leader of the democracy movement as a former Liberation Army officer, opposition lawmaker, and publisher of the monthly journal World of Ideology. According to Jang Ho-kweon, Jang's eldest son and current publisher of the journal, Jang told him that Kim was a patriotic soldier whom he would one day work together with for democracy. [5] In 1979, Kim claimed to his lawyer that his first attempt to assassinate Park was in September 14, 1974 when he was appointed to be Construction Minister. A newsreel of this event shows something protruding in Kim's pocket when he shook hands with Park. According to the reverend Yi Hae-hak, who was imprisoned with Jang Jun-ha when Jang was sentenced to fifteen years for creating a petition campaign against the Yushin Constitution, Jang knew of Kim's plan to assassinate Park and was very disappointed when it did not take place, uttering to himself, "Is it that great to be a minister?". After Jang died under suspicious circumstances while climbing a mountain in 1975, Kim secretly provided financial assistance to Jang's family. When Kim later became KCIA director in 1976, he told Jang's son with deep regret that Jang's death was not accidental as officially announced, but that the regime was involved. [6]

According to Cardinal Kim Sou-hwan, another leading figure in democracy movement, Kim (then KCIA deputy director) came to see him whenever there was political crisis. In 1975, he asked Cardinal Kim to speak with President Park to come up with the "third way," that is, to somehow amend the Yushin Constitution in a way that was acceptable to Park. According to Cardinal Kim, Kim compared President Park to "a sick patient" who needed weak medicine initially. Kim believed that the Catholic cardinal was the only person who could speak frankly to Park without repercussion and was disappointed when the talk was essentially fruitless. [7] Kim's association with two key figures of democracy movement - Jang Jun-ha and Cardinal Kim Sou-hwan - led some to reconsider Kim's motive in assassinating Park.

As Construction Minister (1974–1976), Kim promoted the entry of Korean construction companies into Saudi Arabia, increasing South Korean export to the Middle East twentyfold from $45 million in 1973 to $900 million in 1976 and thus making Saudi Arabia the fourth most important overseas market, [8] which helped South Korea weather the 1973 oil crisis.

KCIA Director

On February 4, 1976, Kim was summoned by President Park and was appointed as the director of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA), one of the most powerful and feared positions under Park's dictatorship. The KCIA was created in 1961 to coordinate both international and domestic intelligence activities including those of the military with primary aim of combating communism and North Korea. Since then, it was also used to suppress any domestic opposition to Park's regime using its broad powers to wiretap, arrest, and detain suspects without a court order. The KCIA was responsible for widespread violations of human rights in South Korea, engaging in torture, political murder, and kidnapping. It was also heavily involved in behind-the-scene political maneuverings to weaken the opposition parties using bribery, blackmail, threats, arrest, and/or torture of opposition lawmakers. Later Kim claimed that he did not want the position but thought that it would give him the best chance to persuade President Park and reform the Yushin system.

Kim's tenure as the KCIA director has many contradictions. On one hand, Kim asked President Park to lift the Ninth Emergency Decree at least three times, which punished any criticism of Yushin Constitution with a prison term of at least one year, until it was finally replaced with the Tenth Emergency Decree, which relaxed many restrictions of the Ninth Decree. He also released many activists and students who had been arrested under the Ninth Decree. [9] Declassified U.S. diplomatic cables revealed that Kim was considered an unusual KCIA director who often spoke of democracy, and one of the more approachable figures who often carried Washington's messages on human rights to President Park. [10]

On the other hand, Kim was responsible for KCIA activities that took place during his tenure including the assassination of former KCIA director Kim Hyeong-wook, political sabotage of the opposing New Democratic Party's internal election, and the violent arrest of female workers of a wig company YH Trade. Nearly 200 female workers of YH Trade held sit-in demonstrations at the headquarters of New Democratic Party (NDP) when 2,000 policemen stormed the NDP headquarters on August 11, 1979. In the process, one female worker fell to her death and 52 people including 10 workers, 30 NDP members, and 12 journalists were injured, some requiring hospitalization. Furthermore, KCIA Deputy Director Kim Jeong-Seop and Kim Gye-won testified in their trial after Park's assassination that Kim pursued the firm action in YH case over the objection of subordinates and that Kim wanted stronger measures than the Ninth Decree allowed.[ citation needed ] However, their claims are not thought[ by whom? ] to be credible since some other testimonies are demonstrably untrue and they needed to distance themselves from Kim.

1979 regime troubles

The last year of Park's rule was particularly turbulent with increasing opposition from the New Democratic Party (NDP), which was emboldened after winning the 1978 election by 1.1% despite Park's complete control of media, money, and all institutions of the government. Because of the Yushin Constitution, which allowed President Park to appoint one third of National Assembly seats, Park's Democratic Republican Party (DRP) remained in power. In May 1979, Kim Young Sam was elected as the chairman of New Democratic Party (NDP) despite intense behind-the-scene maneuverings by KCIA to back a more pliable candidate Yi Chul-seung. Under Kim Young Sam's leadership, the NDP took the hardline policy of never compromising or cooperating with Park until the repeal of Yushin Constitution and took on direct confrontation in many issues, especially the aforementioned YH Trade case. After the violent arrest, Kim Young Sam warned that Park's murderous regime would soon collapse in the most wretched manner. Park was determined to remove Kim from the political scene like imprisoned Kim Dae-joong. In September 1979, the KCIA worked behind the scene to entice three NDP members to challenge Kim's election as NDP chairmanship in the court on technicality, and the court obliged by ordering the suspension of Kim's NDP chairmanship.[ citation needed ]

The political tension intensified further when Kim Young Sam gave an interview with the New York Times reporter Henry Stokes, in which he called on the United States to make a choice between the military dictatorship and the Korean people and stop supporting Park's regime. President Park ordered Kim's expulsion from the National Assembly, which Director Kim feared to be a disastrous path. On October 3, 1979, Director Kim met the DNP Chairman Kim, hoping to find a way to avoid such development. Having asked reluctant Kim to come to KCIA "for the sake of the country", Director Kim warned that Park's hostility toward him reached the point where it might not end with just expulsion or arrest and literally begged Kim Young Sam to just say that there was miscommunication with the interview. According to Kim Young Sam, when he refused, Director Kim appealed that it would bring misfortune to the country, to Kim Young Sam and to President Park. Indeed, Kim's expulsion from the Assembly the next day led all 66 NDP lawmakers to submit their resignation to the National Assembly en masse and the U.S. to recall its ambassador to Washington in protest. Uprisings broke out in Kim Young Sam's hometown in Busan on October 16, the second largest city in South Korea, resulting in arson of 30 police stations over several days. It was the largest demonstration since the days of President Rhee Seung Man and spread to nearby Masan on October 19 and other cities, with students and citizens calling for repeal of the Yushin Constitution. KCIA Director Kim went to Busan to investigate the situation and found that the demonstrations were not riots by some college students, but more like a "popular uprising joined by regular citizens" to resist the regime. He warned President Park that the uprisings would spread to five other largest cities including Seoul. Park said that he himself would give an order to fire upon demonstrators if the situation got worse.[ citation needed ]

Rivalry between Kim and Cha

Kim's position, already under stress of the series of political crises of 1979, was further complicated by his rivalry with Cha Ji-cheol, chief of the Presidential Security Service and worsening relationship with President Park. The rivalry stemmed largely from Cha's increasing encroachment into KCIA turf and arrogant behaviors that belittled Kim in public. Almost universally disliked and feared, Cha served Park in close proximity since 1974 and became his favorite and most trusted advisor in the process. Cha appropriated tanks, helicopters, and troops from the Army so that the presidential security apparatus had a division-level firepower under Cha's direct command. Furthermore, he began to engage in political maneuverings with President Park's blessing, which resulted in frequent clash with the KCIA. In the NDP's election for its chairman in 1979, KCIA backed Yi Chul-seung to prevent the election of hardliner Kim Young Sam, but Cha Ji-chul interfered in KCIA's political sabotage with its own behind-scene maneuverings. When Kim Young Sam was elected as the NDP chairman, Cha laid the blame on KCIA, which infuriated Kim. Later Cha pushed for Kim's expulsion from the National Assembly, [11] which Director Kim feared to be a disastrous development. Cha easily bested his opponent as his hardline approach was favored by Park, and he blamed worsening development on Director Kim's weak leadership of KCIA at every opportunity. As Cha came to control the scheduling of President Park's meetings and briefings and thus access to the president, KCIA briefings, which were usually the first business in the morning, were pushed down to afternoons. By October, there were wide rumors that Kim would be soon replaced as KCIA director.[ citation needed ]

Assassination of Park Chung-hee

On the day of assassination, Park and his entourage visited ribbon-cutting ceremonies for a dam in Sap-gyeo-cheon and a KBS TV transmitting station in Dang-jin. Kim was expected to accompany him since the TV station was under KCIA jurisdiction, but Cha blocked him from riding in the same helicopter with President Park. Director Kim angrily excused himself from the trip.

After the trip, President Park instructed KCIA to prepare for one of his numerous banquets - on average ten per month according to KCIA Chief Agent Park Seon-ho, one of the conspirators - at a KCIA safe house in Gungjeong-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea. It was to be attended by President Park, KCIA Director Kim, PSS Chief Cha, Chief Presidential Secretary Kim Gye-won, and two young women - rising singer Shim Soo-bong and a college student named Shin Jae-soon. When Director Kim was notified of the banquet, he called Korean Army Chief of Staff Jeong Seung-hwa 15 minutes later to invite him to the KCIA safe house and arranged to have him dine with KCIA Deputy Director Kim Jeong-seop in a nearby KCIA building in the same compound. [12] Just before the dinner, Director Kim told Chief Presidential Secretary Kim Gye-won that he would get rid of Chief Cha. It is not clear whether Kim Gye-won misheard or misunderstood Director Kim or he ignored Kim's words.

During the dinner, volatile political issues including demonstrations in Busan and the opposition leader Kim Young Sam were discussed with President Park, with Chief Cha taking a hardline and Director Kim calling for moderate measures, while Chief Presidential Secretary Kim was trying to steer the topic of discussion to small talk. President Park rebuked Director Kim for not being repressive enough in dealing with protestors and Kim Young Sam, whom Park said should be arrested. Each time discussion drifted to other subjects, Chief Cha continued to bring up the inability of KCIA to end the crisis and suggested that demonstrators and opposition lawmakers should be "mowed down with tanks." The rebukes from President Park and especially Cha riled up Director Kim. Director Kim left the dining room to convene with his closest subordinates - former Marine colonel and KCIA Chief Agent Park Seon-ho and Army colonel and Director Kim's secretary Park Heung-ju (no relations) - and said to them: "The chief of staff and deputy director are here as well. Today is the day." Asked if President Park was included as a target, Kim said yes. [13] Kim reentered the room with a semi-automatic pistol Walther PPK, shot the PSS chief in the arm and then President Park in the left chest. He attempted to fire again on Cha, but the gun jammed. Cha fled to a bathroom adjacent to the dining room. Kim came back with his subordinate's gun and again shot at Cha in the abdomen and Park in the head, who was dead by then. Upon hearing the initial shots, Park Seon-ho held two bodyguards in the waiting room at gunpoint and ordered them to put their hands up in hope of preventing further bloodshed, especially since he was a friend of one of the bodyguards. When the other bodyguard attempted to reach for a gun, Park shot them both to death. At the same time, Colonel Park Heung-ju and two other KCIA agents stormed the kitchen and killed the remaining bodyguards. President Park, Chief Cha, three presidential bodyguards, and a presidential chauffeur died in the end. [14]


After killing President Park, Kim asked Chief Presidential Secretary Kim to secure the safe house and ran to the nearby KCIA building where Army Chief of Staff Jeong Seung-hwa was waiting. Jeong heard the shootings and was discussing them with KCIA Deputy Director Kim Jeong-seop when Director Kim came in breathless to tell them that an emergency situation had occurred. In the car, Kim notified Jeong that President Park had died, but without explaining how he died. Kim hoped that Jeong and Chief Presidential Secretary Kim would support him in the coup as both were appointed to their position on his recommendation, and Chief Presidential Secretary Kim was especially close with him. The car initially headed to KCIA Headquarters in Namsan district but eventually went to Army Headquarters in Yongsan district since the Army would have to be involved in declaring emergency martial law. Many historians believe that Kim made a critical mistake in not going to KCIA HQ where he would be in control. However, his failure to gain Jeong's support sealed the fate of the conspirators.

Meanwhile, Chief Presidential Secretary Kim took President Park's body to the Army hospital and ordered doctors to save him at all costs (without revealing Park's identity), and went to Prime Minister Choi Kyu-ha to reveal what happened that night. When Chief of Staff Jeong learned of what happened from Chief Presidential Secretary Kim, he ordered Major General Chun Doo-hwan, commander of Security Command who later became the president of South Korea through a military coup, to arrest Director Kim and investigate the incident. Director Kim was arrested after he was lured to a secluded area outside Army HQ on the pretext of meeting with Army Chief of Staff. Eventually, everyone involved in the assassination was arrested, tortured, and later executed.[ citation needed ] Kim himself was hanged on May 24. In the process, Chun Doo-hwan emerged as a new political force by investigating and subjugating KCIA, the most feared government agency until then, under his Security Command and later by arresting the chief martial law administrator Jeong Seung-hwa (and Chief Presidential Secretary Kim) on suspicion of conspiring with Director Kim. Both were eventually released after Chun Doo-hwan seized power with a military coup in May 1980 (both were on death row at one time). [15]

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  13. MBC TV, People of Gungjeong-dong, Now We Can Tell the Story
  14. MBC TV, Why Did Kim Jae-kyu Shoot? Now We Can Tell the Story, April 4, 2004
  15. MBC TV, Why Did Kim Jae-kyu Shoot? Now We Can Tell the Story, April 4, 2004