ROK Drop

Avatar of USinKoreaBy on May 2nd, 2012 at 12:49 pm

April 1960–Fall of Rhee–NYT Archives

5 April     200 Rhee Opponents Clash with Police

The fight occurred in front of the capitol as the demonstrators attempted to march toward the presidential mansion about half a mile away.

More than forty opposition members of the National Assembly were at the head of the crowd of only a few hundred as it started to march from the city hall plaza in defiance of a government warning yesterday.  But the number of demonstrators increased to about 2,000 during the two hour street parade.

At least one policeman was beaten and members of the crowd took some policemen’s hats and tossed them into the air.  Scores of demonstrators were taken to police stations in buses.

11 Apr   Rioting Renewed on Korean Vote

Bloody political riots broke out again last night in Masan a troubled port city.

News reports said one 18-year old and possibly another youth had been killed and 14 policemen injured as anti-government demonstrators burned police vehicles and set fire to official buildings in a protest over the conduct of the controversial elections March 15.

The police chief of Masan was reported to be in critical condition as a result of a beating by angered students.  Eight other policemen were said to be in serious condition.

14 Apr     Korea City in Grip of Fear and Fury

As night falls, Masan becomes a city of complete darkness under a blackout enforced on 150,000 residents.  Troublesome areas are patrolled by 700 heavily armed policemen, most of who were brought from nearby towns to help control the persistent outbreaks of violent political unrest.

Masan’s crusaders for “clean politcs” acquired a powerful emotional symbol Monday when a fisherman discovered the mangled body of Kim Joo-Yul in the Masan harbor.  This 16 year old honor student had been preparing to enter a Masan commercial high school.  He had been missing since the election day outbreak here in which students took a prominent part.

An article on the 17th states the boy had part of a tear gas canister embedded in his skull…

This Wikipedia article lists the discovery of the boy’s body as the start of the eventual fall of Rhee.

What I find interesting is how such an event can become the focal point of a mass movement helping – giving it strength.  I guess it helps organize and maintain the energy of enough people to build momentum necessary to foment change.

You see "leaders of movements of all stripes trying to find these seemingly magical events that will help them pull in average people and ignite emotions.

Part of what I mean is — There were more than a couple of people shot and killed by police during the riot on election day…

…This boy wasn’t killed by an aimed bullet.  He wasn’t beaten to death by the police.  He apparently got hit in the head with a falling tear gas canister.  But his death is the one that was able to pool and focus the energy of Korean citizens across the nation who were unhappy with Rhee’s rule…

Tearing down the rear wall of the hospital compound, thousands broke through the police guard to view the body, which was taken as evidence of police brutality.

Several hundred students and other demonstrators wrecked all six city police buildings Monday night.  Masan’s police chief was beaten nearly to death and his jeep burned by a group reported to have consisted largely of infuriated mothers.

Activity today began with a march of more than 300 high school girls carrying flowers to the hospital where Kim Joo Yul’s body was enshrined. 

Policemen, who by now had new orders to “get tough,” broke up this demonstration with a fusillade of harmless rifle shots overhead and the use of fire hoses squirting clouds of red dye.

Screaming and weeping girls, all dressed in the spotless dark uniform of their school, retreated with pigtails flying.  But they kept their solid line, which blocked the street from wall to wall as they fell back before the shower of red liquid.

16 Apr      Police in 4 Cities Disperse Anti-Rhee Demonstrators

In Masan, where 3 persons were killed and scores injured Monday, 500 students attempted to stage new protests today. 

The police broke up similar demonstrations in Chinju, 30 miles west of here, and at Pusan, 28 miles to the east.

17 Apr      Seoul Says Reds Fomented Riots

Whether communists were responsible for this week’s bloody riots in the port city of Masan has become the subject of a lively controversy, centered in  South Korea’s National Assembly.

The next couple of paragraphs highlight exchanges of accusations by Rhee and the opposition – particularly the Hanguk Ilbo newspaper.

The newspaper was alluding to the killing of 8 persons on election day when the police fired on a crowd of demonstrators against alleged voting irregularities in Masan.  5 policemen are under arrest in connection with the shooting, and the government has announced that 56 charges of police torture are being investigated.

19 Apr     Seoul Police Kill or Wound 30 Rioters at Rhee Palace

Thousands of anti-government demonstrators surging toward Pres. Rhee’s palace were repulsed today by 45 minutes of police rifle fire.  Up to 30 persons were believed killed or wounded. 

University students formed a large part of the mob.

A reporter said he saw more than 2 dozen students in school uniforms bleeding from wounds, some crawling down the street near the presidential mansion.

Students protesting the government has a long history in Korea’s Confucianistic society:  In the Chosun Dynasty, idealistic students studying in the national academy in Seoul would sometimes join members of the Censorate Bureau in sit-in strikes in front of the main palace.  The Censorate was an idealistic branch of the government overseeing all aspects of Korean governance – from the written documents to the personal acts of the king and ministers.  Their seal was necessary for government transactions. 

  Guards opened fire after the throng had crashed through a barbedwire fence 60 yards from the gate at the foot of a hill on which the mansion stands.

Thronds of demonstrators roamed the streets of Seoul, almost at will, staying away only from the immediate approaches of the mansion.

Seoul was in turmoil as crowds – mostly student – demonstrated at other points in the city.

About half a mile from the palace a mob invaded the National Capitol grounds, smashing more than half the windows of the Education, Reconstruction, and Supply Ministry buildings.

At least 30 persons, 15 of them policemen, were injured yesterday when the waves of anti-government demonstrations spread to Seoul and two other cities.

20 Apr

The US sternly rebuked the South Korean Government today, accusing it of adopting “repressive measures unsuited to a free democracy.”

This is interesting if you consider the significant number of articles this same month on warming relations between Korea and Japan – including significant steps to initiate trade and formal government relations.  This was something the US wanted to see happen but many in Korean society didn’t due to the still very fresh memories of Japanese colonial rule.

So, Rhee’s government was finally making key steps Washington favored and now this rebuke on the domestic front…

The unusual protest, possibly one of the most severe ever made to a friendly and allied government, was delivered by Sec. of State Christian A. Herter to Seoul’s Ambassador, You Chan Yang.

By its actions today, the US appeared to accept as valid the charges by critics that the election was rigged and undemocratic.

One thing to probably keep in mind is that Pres. Eisenhower was due to visit Seoul in the near future – and – that he had come under fire the month before for supporting dictators in third world countries…

The Secretary warned of the unfavorable reaction likely to result from the bloodshed and violence occurring in Korea.  he said this was likely to produce a serious weakening of South Korea’s international standing.

True.  On the flip-side, making such a public statement of this by the US can’t avert sending a signal to the Korean government opposition that fomenting insurrection is likely to pay off…

…I can think of quotes from people in Kwangju in 1980.  Some of the older leaders tried to talk the protesters into dispersing before the last showdown – some days after the initial killings.  But, by this time, younger, more idealistic leaders had gained control and were said to welcome martyr status – in large part because it would send a message around the world and to Washington…And they were at least partly correct:  The US attitude toward the rising Chun presidency did not change to the point Chun was dethroned, but within Korean society, memories of Kwangju did eventually lead to the fall of Chun’s successor some years later…

20 Apr     UN Releases Korean Division

  Since the Kwangju Massacre in 1980, the UN release of military units for martial law has been used by many Koreans as proof the US was to blame for the killings that occurred.

20 Apr     US Played Big Role in Shaping The History of Korea Since 1905

Long article.  Interesting date to start with:  Pretty much from 1905 to 1945, the US had no direct influence on Korea, because it was dominated by colonial Japan.  Of course, after 1945, the US had a major influence on Korea…

20 Apr     Turmoil in South Korea

South Korea has been wept by mass riots amounting to an incipient insurrection.  Starting with irresponsible student demonstrations, these riots have snowballed to involve tens of thousands in the country’s major cities and have already cost more than fourscore lives and injuries to hundreds.

Most of the rioters are in no sense communists.  But communist agents help to incite them and, what is more important, they are openly backed by revolutionary propaganda broadcast by the communist regimes of NK and China…

[Fury of the opposition party] turns rather against Vice President Lee, who displaced the Democratic incumbent and whose election does, indeed, appear to have been steamrolled to assure a Liberal successor should anything happen to the 85 year old President. 

21 Apr   Rhee’s Ministers Resign

The articles now are accompanied by pictures taken at the scene of the riots and showing troops marching in the capitol.

22 Apr     US Calls on Rhee to Enact Reform of Korea Politics

This article too has echoes of Kwangju 1980 for me:

As an immediate first step in the present crisis, the US urged Rhee to order a halt to police brutality in dealing with rioters.  At least 115 persons were killed in the rioting this week, most of them by police bullets.

It was in part to bring an end to police excesses that the US agreed to release the Korean 15th Division for temporary duty in Seoul, it was learned…It also seems clear that the people were willing to accept army orders without the bitterness they showed toward the police, who are widely hated in Korea.

The hatred of the police is probably a holdover to colonial rule — and the fact that colonial-style policing continued in the sharply divided society post-1945.

Of course, in 1980, the Special Forces unit, not just the police, were the ones who carried out most of the killings – which prompted the release of different units to replace them later on.  (Contrary to popular wisdom in Korea, the Special Forces were not under the UN chain of command and did not need to be released before being sent to Kwangju.)

Officials in Washington also doubted the fierce resentment aroused throughout South Korea could be eased by anything less than the holding of new election for Vice Presidency.

In 1956, Mr. Chang [the opposition candidate] had defeated Mr. Lee.  Mr. Lee, ill and confined to a wheelchair, unable to walk or even to talk at times, did not campaign this year.  Yet he won in every district, including those in heavily populated cities where the opposition has its principle support.

22 Apr     Rhee Summons Elder Statesmen for Conference on Korea Crisis

The National Assembly broke up in a scuffle this morning as opposition members attempted to pull Defense Minister Kim Chung Yul from the rostrum after he had stated that Tuesday’s mass killings were the result of students firing on the police.

…Seizing Mr. Kim by the arms, the opposition leaders demanded he retract his statement.  Several members of the governing Liberal party also surged onto the stage to assist the struggling defense chief.

According to official figures, which are believed to be highly conservative, 115 died in the mass student-led uprising against alleged election irregularities.

23 Apr   

Pres. Rhee was authoritatively said today to have agreed to a government reorganization and the establishment of a new system of “cabinet responsibility” in which the president’s office would become a more or less ceremonial position.

Reliable sources said Lee had definitely decided to give up the vice presidency.

It should be noted, according to qualified Korean informants, that the ground for the apparently successful pleas of Mr. Huh and Mr. Pyun [to get Pres. Rhee to move toward reform] had been prepared by the US Amb Walter P. McConaughy, in a 90 minute visit with Rhee Thursday.  The scholarly-looking envoy, who plays chamber music on the clarinet for relaxation, had followed up a strong note from Sec. of State Herter by frankly outlining the obvious causes of national discontent to the president.

They told him communist agitation had played no significant part in the rioting.  Mr. Pyun said the students who are now national heroes, had accomplished what the rest of us could not in arousing the nation to the declining state of civil liberties.

23 Apr     Rhee Emphasized Strong Executive

A review of Rhee’s political life.

24 Apr  Rhee to Give Up His Party Post, Keep Presidency

24 Apr     Shake Up Imminent

Pres. Rhee went yesterday to Seoul National University Hospital, where a number of students are under treatment for gunshot wounds suffered in Tuesday’s uprising.  The President was reported to have commiserated with each injur4ed student personally and to have donated a substantial amount for the victims’ welfare.

Reliable sources indicate that General Song and others not actively associated with recent political developments have emerged suddenly as close advisors to the president since Tuesday’s bloody outbreaks.  They have apparently displaced an old guard group of the Liberal party, headed by Mr. Lee.

The coverage of Rhee’s fall will extend through the period in which Park Chung-Hee and other young generals staged a coup that removed those who rose at Rhee’s downfall.

General Song was quoted in The Korean Republic as having said yesterday that so far no evidence had been found that communists were behind last Tuesday’s demonstrations.

23 Apr     Koreans in Tokyo Attack Rhee Aide

Korean demonstrators, angered by police violence in their homeland, kicked and manhandled Amb. Yiu Tai Ha in his office today and forced from him a promise to resign.

I find it hard to believe there was no communist influence involved — given two facts:  what communist theory taught about infiltration – including youth groups – and fomenting of revolution – and – what connections were uncovered within South Korean society going back into the Japanese colonial period.  (And especially the widespread communist activity within the Korean community in Japan.)

More than 60 Koreans, mostly students, picketed in New York yesterday against the policies of Pres. Rhee.

25 Apr     Korea Held Democratic

Riots in Seoul, Korea, last week were cited yesterday by Col. Ben C. Limb, South Korean Delegate to the UN, as evidence that the country enjoys democracy.

It certainly wouldn’t happen in North Korea.

26 Apr     Police Open Fire

Pres. Rhee announced today that he would resign “if the people desire” following a night of frenzied display of public anger against his regime.

In a renewal of violence today a large crowd of students was reported to have attacked a police station in the East Gate sector of downtown Seoul.  Eye-witnesses said that the police opened fire on the demonstrators.  According to the eyewitness versions of the incident, student casualties ranged from seven to twenty.  It was believed at least one person had been killed.

Rushing upon the frightened policemen, the students set fire to the station, which had burned almost completely by midafternoon.

Throughout last night the capital had an appearance of near-revolution as thousands of students, singing, chanting, and shouting anti-government slogans, marched through the streets.  Today the demonstrators virtually disregarded the bayonets of massed troops as they pressed their demands against the president.

The students commandeered jeeps and trucks, defying the military ban on all but essential traffic.

The demonstrations, which appeared to doom the 12 year old Rhee regime, began at 5 PM yesterday when about 300 faculty members from 27 universities and colleges marched to the steps of the National Assembly building.  They read a manifesto containing the demands that Dr. Rhee conceded today.

Rioters Save US Flag – 27 April 1960

Riotously jubilant students pillaged the home of a hated politician today, and one important item survived, a huge US flag.

A mob of students and street waifs hauled the flag from a broken chest at the wrecked house where Lee Ki Poong once lived.

Mr. Lee was Pres. Rhee’s running mate in the March 15 elections and had become a symbol of the rebellion against fraud at the polls.

Not long after this, Lee and family killed themselves. 27 April 1960

Rhee stepped down.  28 April 1960

Dr. Rhee and his Austrian-born wife left the presidential mansion early this afternoon to live as private citizens in a home he owns at the historic eastern gate of the city.

As is somewhat the case today, the political parties of 1960 Korea were those of personality – defined by individual leaders more than party principles.

Both the Liberal party, which Dr. Rhee founded, and the Opposition Democratic party appeared to be approaching the verge of disintegration.  both contain warring factions and neither has a leader who seems to possess popular appeal.

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  • bulgasari
    11:44 pm on May 2nd, 2012 1

    Good post. I posted on this topic a few years ago using Time as a source, but the NYT coverage you’ve dug up shows how much Time left out. I’m not exactly sure what happened to the student found in the water off Masan, but photos of his body (do an image search for 김주열 on Naver) show large pieces of metal apparently embedded in his eye. I’d find it hard to believe such large pieces could end up there accidentally due to a tear gas shell exploding…

  • kushibo
    2:09 am on May 3rd, 2012 2

    In 2010, I posted a comprehensive list of Time articles on Park Chunghee, though I didn’t go into as much detailed description as Bulgasari did.

  • Avatar of GI KoreaGI Korea
    11:39 am on May 3rd, 2012 3

    The tear gas canister angle is interesting. I also found it interesting how the Occupy Oakland protesters tried to use the same tear gas canister angle to draw sympathy towards their cause:

  • Avatar of USinKoreaUSinKorea
    2:40 pm on May 3rd, 2012 4

    I no little about it beyond having watched video in the past, but, on the canister:

    I don’t think the large chunk is odd.

    They didn’t explode. They just fell to the ground and spewed gas. Occasionally in a crowded situation, someone who didn’t or couldn’t get out of the way got clunked in the head.

    The guns themselves that launched the canister’s weren’t built for aiming accuracy. So, I doubt the police were targetting individuals with them.

    And like I said in the post, there were plenty of cases of dead protesters who were shot with real bullets and guns during that period. I believe some were beaten to death.

    That is what makes the canister case and how it became the focal point of the protest nation-wide interesting.


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