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1979: South Korean President killed

The President of South Korea, Park Chung Hee, has been "accidentally" shot dead by the chief of his intelligence service, Kim Jea Kyu.

Five other people, including the president's bodyguard, were also killed.

The incident took place at the Korean Central Intelligence Agency's headquarters during a dinner being held by Kim in honour of the president.

A government statement revealed that an argument broke out between Kim Jae Kyu and Park's chief bodyguard, Cha Chi Chul, during which a shot was fired by Kim which hit the president as he tried to intervene.

Martial law proclaimed

The President was taken from the scene to a nearby army hospital where he later died.

There had been a long-standing dispute between the president and Kim Jae Kyu over whether to adopt a tough or moderate policy towards political opponents.

An emergency meeting of the Cabinet has named Prime Minister Choi Kyu-Hua as acting president. Martial law has also been proclaimed throughout the country.

General Chung, the army chief of staff, has been appointed commander of martial law. His first act was to order a nightly curfew and to ban all demonstrations throughout the country.

The US Government reacted immediately saying that it would deal strongly with any attempt by North Korea to exploit the situation.

The US Defense Department ordered American troops based in South Korea to be on "alert status" as a warning.

Park Chung Hee became President in 1961. He was known for his firm rule which he said was justified by the constant threat of invasion from North Korea.

He had already survived one assassination attempt. In August 1974 a series of shots were fired at him as he gave a speech. All shots missed him but one killed his wife.

In Context
When the president's body was moved from Government House to the national cemetery more than two million Koreans lined the streets.

In a re-enactment of the incident, required by Korean law, Kim Jae Kyu showed how he first shot the president's bodyguard and then the president himself whom he shot twice.

The incident was seen as an attempted coup with intelligence agents admitting to shooting four of the president's other body guards after being told of the plan by Kim Jae Kyu.

Kim Jae Kyu and four KCIA agents were tried and sentenced to death for the murder of President Park Chung Hee and his bodyguards.

I was there
I was stationed in country at the time with an air defense unit and they did more than put us on alert.

We were deployed into the field between Dong Du Chon and the DMZ with ammo and missiles loaded. We were out there about 10 days.

The North Koreans were jamming our radar and things were pretty tense.

While we were out there I didn't see much of the civilian population, but from what I was hearing on Armed Forces Radio the civilian population remained reasonably calm.
Jim Sears, USA


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