Two Students Discuss Park's Killing

Describe Life in South Korea

The assassination Friday of South Korean President Park Chung Hee provoked entirely different reactions among two Currier House students who spent last year in South Korea.

"There is a hope now among South Koreans--a rekindled hope of the possibility of a democratic election," Anne Sung-Hi Lee '80 says.

Lee, who studied last year ar Ewha University in Seoul, says "Koreans all felt that something like this was going to happen sooner or later. No one thought it was going to happen so soon."

However, Louisa B. Wood '81-2, who spent last spring teaching school in Seoul, says she was shocked by the assassination.

Wood, an East Asian Languages and Civilizations concentrator, lived with two families who she says had greatly profited from Park's emphasis on industrial growth.


"I was constantly being told of all the wonderful things Park had done for South Korea--how he had put a tiled roof on every home, and how he was protecting the country from communist invasion, Wood says.

South Korea, however, was under martial law while lee lived there. University students, for instance, had a midnight curfew and riot police supervising their dances.

"The fear of arrest that results in virtual blacklisting is widespread," Lee says, adding, "You're forced to withdraw from the university; you can't get a job, even marriage becomes difficult."

As a result, academics say they "had to learn to walk a neutral tightrope," Lee adds. "Teachers and students wouldn't say they were against Park, but they wouldn't say they were for him," she explains.

Wood says she encountered a similar fear among the teachers at her school. "I'd ask them about politics and they would hedge and change the subject." Lee says this watchfulness stems from the KCIA informers among fellow teachers and students.

Despite the abuses of the Park regime, Lee says "South Koreans preferred his government to invasion by the communists. Koreans have seen war and what it has done to their country and people."

That decimation precipitated a "love-hate relationship" towards the U.S. among the Korean people, Lee says, adding. "They're totally dependent on American aid. They're resentful but they know they need it."

Wood and Lee agree that the greatest tragedy in the Koreas is the ongoing strife dividing the people. Lee adds, "Once a year, at the border, doves are released to express the yearning for unity."