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The Sins of President Park's Police State

Why Harvard Should Refuse Korean Grants

By George Wald

I have followed with deep misgivings the discussion in the press of Harvard's relations with South Korea. Early in 1975 Harvard University was given $1 million by the Korean Traders Association (KTA) to promote Korean studies. Gregory Henderson, political officer at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul (1958-63) and now a professor at Tufts University's Fletcher School of Diplomacy characterized the KTA as "a Korean government agency... responsive to the overall political planning being conducted by the Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA)" (Knight News Service, Nov. 19, 1976). What can Harvard's relationship to the KTA and through it to the present regime in South Korea mean? Let me say what it means to me.

The present government of South Korea is one of the most brutal, venal and corrupt on Earth.

The dictator Park Chung Hee keeps the country in a continuous state of paranoia, based upon the alleged imminence of attack by North Korea. It may bring a little perspective to this situation to realize that the South has 35 million people to the North's 16 million; a GNP in 1974 of $17.5 billion to the North's approximate $5 billion and armed forces totalling 625,000 to the North's 467,000 (International Institute for Strategic Studies, London, 1975-76).

Add to that 41,000 U.S. troops, most of them stationed just below the demilitarized zone, so as to be involved at once in any action. They have at their disposal an estimated 660 to 680 tactical nuclear weapons, with an estimated 1500 more on the Pacific Fleet (Center for Defense Information, Washington, D.C., January 19, 1976). It's an explosive situation. Any day Park, who has a shaky political base, might decide to unify the country by starting a defensive war; or our own forces might decide to trim another tree in the DMZ with consequences far worse than what happened a few months ago. Either way we would be instantly involved in a conflict that would have an excellent chance of becoming the first nuclear war in history.

As for the Park regime, one can gain an idea of its "domestic savagery" (Washington Post, March 19, 1976) from the curious incident on August 15, 1974 when an alleged dissident Korean from Japan tried to assassinate Park during a public rally. The bullets struck Park's wife instead. She was rushed dying to a hospital while Park, emerging from behind a bullet-proof shield, went on with his speech. Afterward there was a great anti-Japanese uproar, and, on September 9, 32 patriots lopped off fingers publicly in Seoul with meat cleavers and sent them wrapped in a Korean flag to then Japanese premier Kakuei Tanaka. Newsmen soon discovered however that those "patriots" were convicts who had been released from jail to perform this act. The government had paid them from $125 to $375 per finger (Newsweek, Oct. 14, 1974).

I went to Seoul in August 1974 with Fred Branfman and three relatively anonymous Japanese to deliver a petition to President Park to release his political prisoners. It had been signed by 17,000 Japanese, Jean-Paul Sartre, Willy Brandt, Joseph Needham, and--I am proud to say--three Harvard professors: Edwin O. Reischauer, Jerome A. Cohen and Edward W. Wagner. I was in Seoul for just 48 hours, perhaps the most unpleasant in my life, with the Korean CIA never letting up for a moment its bugging and intimidation.

In Seoul we were unable to see the great Korean poet Kim Chi Ha, now in jail serving a life sentence. We did meet the venerable Quaker Hahm Suk Hon, the "Gandhi of Korea," the only Korean who had the courage to call on us. He is now serving an 8 year jail sentence. We also met Kim Dae Jung, who received 46 per cent of the vote in 1971 when Korea last held a popular election. His first words to me were, "I am suffering from a sciatica brought on by an auto collision that I do not think was accidental, and from an anxiety neurosis." I said that was hardly surprising. Exactly one year before he had been kidnapped by the Korean CIA from a Tokyo hotel, and kept blind-folded and drugged until he finally came to, a prisoner in Seoul. He too is serving an eight year jail sentence, and he is likely to die in jail unless released soon, for he needs careful medical attention.

These three men and 16 other persons were tried and sentenced to jail terms of from two to eight years for having issued a "Declaration for the Restoration of Democracy" at an ecumenical mass in Seoul's Roman Catholic Cathedral on March 1, 1976. their fellow prisoners include former President Yun Po Sun; former Foreign Minister Chyung Yil Hyung; his wife, Lee Tai Young, the first woman lawyer in South Korea; and some of the most prominent Catholic and Protestant churchmen in Korea.

On April 9, 1975, eight alleged members of the People's Revolutionary Party were hanged. The PRP, so far as known, does not exist, but had been invented by the present chief of the KCIA, Shin Jik Soo some ten years earlier to provide a pretext for this kind of action. Two American churchmen, the Rev. George Ogle, a United Methodist, and Father James Sinnott, a Maryknoll priest in Korea since 1960, were expelled from Korea for attempting to refute the government's charges.

The Park government sells whatever can be sold: babies for adoption; miners and nurses for West Germany; young women as prostitutes and nightclub hostesses in Japan and Korea. Lush travel circulars entice hundreds of thousands of Japanese businessmen to Korea on all-expense kisaeng tours that include the services of young Korean women. As preparation these women are given weekly lectures by government-appointed professors to assure them that their efforts are a patriotic service, providing foreign exchange that will make a better life for all Koreans. Those sent to Japan are issued passports stamped "Artistic Delegation" by the ROK Ministry of Education. On April 12, 1973 the Minister of Education Min Kwan-sik, in a speech at a Korean high school in Tokyo, praised "the laudable patriotic sentiments of the large number of South Korean kisaeng and nightclub hostesses who have come to Japan and are working day and night selling their cunts for the nation." (Ampo: Japan-Asia Quarterly Review, Tokyo, April-Sept. 1976, p.9). (The vulgarism is at least as shocking in Korea or Japan as here.)

But what Korea sells most of all is cheap labor, paid the second lowest wages in East Asia. In 1975, 81.9 per cent of the workers earned under $62 per month. The official figure for the cost of living for a family of 5 is $85 per month (Korean National Tax Bureau). There are no unions, so strikes, no enforcement of environmental regulations or workers' health and safety provisions. South Korea is consequently highly attractive to foreign traders and corporations. In 1974 its foreign trade accounted for 74 per cent of its GNP; whereas for even so great a trading nation as Japan the foreign trade is less than 20 per cent of the GNP.

The dreaded Korean CIA operates worldwide. It conducts a ceaseless intimidation and terror at home, and surveillance, beatings and occasional kidnapping among Koreans abroad, including those in the U.S. (New York Times, October 30, 1976). The Amnesty International Report for 1975-76 says, "in the Republic of Korea, torture can be said to be employed systematically in order to intimidate." The KCIA is estimated to have between 100,000 and 300,000 operatives, including an estimated one third of the personnel of the South Korean embassy in Washington. We have only lately been told, though our government has known it since 1973, that large sums of money are distributed by Korean operatives in this country to subvert and bribe members of Congress (New York Times, Nov. 9, 1976).

The principal economic exploitation of South Korea is Japanese, but there are also multiple links with American business. Bob Dorsey, the former Chairman of the Board of the Gulf Oil Company testified to a Congressional committee that Gulf contributed $4 million to two of Park's presidential campaigns. Park Tong Sun, who seems to have principally directed the bribing and subversion of American Government officials in Washington, claimed recently that Gulf was paying him $1 million a month; Gulf's immediate response was that it could not have been that much. Park's family distributes Gulf oil products and runs an oil-shipping line in South Korea (New York Times, Oct. 31, 1976). It is said to be a different family from President Park's but Park Tong Sun has also been heard to claim that he is a cousin of the President. Dow Chemical Corporation, once notorious as the maker of napalm, is investing $150 million in a petrochemical complex said to cost $862 million, that also involves Caltex and the Korean government (Chemical and Engineering News, Nov. 22, 1976).

The Korean Traders Association that gave Harvard $1 million for East Asian Studies is an instrument of the dictatorship, with close contacts with the Korean CIA. It is said that this money is acceptable because no strings are attached to it. The KTA did voice a concern that adverse criticism of South Korea not result from the gift. Clearly the Korean government is confident that no further strings are needed.

(Copyright by George Wald, 1977)

George Wald, Higgins Professor of Biology, carried to Seoul in August 1974 a petition to President Park of South Korea to release South Korean political prisoners.

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