After steering the Korean economy out of poverty, how did Park Chung-hee’s popularity decline to the point that he was assassinated by his own cohort?

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Re-enacting the assassination for prosecutors


  • “Post-Park era”- villain or hero? 
  • Assassination motivation theories 


  • His popularity began to decline along with the slowing of the economic growth in the early 1970’s 
    • Many koreans were unhappy with his rule, his security, and his restrictions on personal freedoms under provisions of state of emergency instated from the Korean War
    • The KCIA had too much broad power to make arrests- many of his enemies were tortured and held without trial
  • Yunshin Constitution in 1972 to confirm his perpetual dictatorship- replacing direct voting with indirect voting from delegates and repealing president term limits and extending terms to 6 years
    • This completely went against the Constitution of 1963 which prohibited a president from three consecutive terms
    • He also had the power to issue emergency decrees and dismiss the National Assembly
    • In an emergency decree, any opposition towards the constitution could lead to 15 years of prison
  • In the 1978 legislative election, the New Democratic Party (NDP) won a slim majority 
  • In September of 1979, the courts nullified Kim Young-Sam’s chairmanship of the NDP and expelled him from the National Assembly in a secret meeting by the Democratic Republican Party (DRP)
    • All 66 NDP lawmakers submitted their resignations from the National Assembly in protest
      • The Carter administration recalled its ambassador from Seoul
  • In Busan, democratic protests broke out, leading to 30 arson attacks on police stations over several days and spread to nearby cities
    • The protests as reported by Kim Jae-gyu were lead by “regular” citizens, and not college students even though it started at Busan National University
    • Park said he would give orders to fire upon demonstrators if the situation got worse
  • October 16, 1979 – the “Pu-Ma” struggle (after the Pusan and Masan) led by students from Busan National University got into a conflict with riot police 
    • Up to 50,000 people had gathered in front of city hall by the end of the day 
    • Over the next two days, over 400 arrests were made and Park declared martial law in Busan 
    • City-wide curfew in Masan after attacks on police stations and public officials


  • Death – October 26, 1979 (often referred as 10.26 or 10.26 incident) 
    • Location: Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA) safehouse inside the Blue House presidential compound in the Jongno district in Seoul
      •  at a banquet following a ribbon cutting ceremony for a dam in Sapgyo
        • Had these dinners 10 times per month
  • Shot by the director of the KCIA, Kim Jae-gyu, his lifelong friend
  • Dinner attendees: Park, Director Kim Jae-gyu, Cha Ji-chul, Chief Secretary Kim Gye-won, and two young women, Shim Shoo-bang (singer) and Shin Jae-soon (college student) 
  • Heavy talks of politics occurred during the dinner included insults thrown at Kim for the inability of the KCIA to suppress protestors and Kim Young Sam, Park’s rival whom he wanted arrested 
  • Kim left the dining room with his subordinate Chief Agent Park Seon-ho and his secretary Park Heung-ju
    • He said to the two: “ Chief of Staff and  Deputy Director are here as well. Today is the day”
  • Kim returned to the room with a semi-automatic Walther PPK and opened fire
    • He shot Cha in the arm and Park in the chest
    • His gun jammed before he could kill Cha, who fled to a bathroom next to the dining room
  • Kim left and came back with Park Seon-ho’s Smith and Wesson Model 36 revolver
    • He shot Cha in the chest, spoke to Park, and then shot him execution-style in the head
  • Outside of the dining room, two bodyguards responded to the shots but were stopped at gunpoint by Park Seon-ho
    • One of the guards reached for his gun, so Park killed both of them
  • Six people were killed: Park, Cha, 3 bodyguards, and a presidential chauffeur outside
  • Kim was tortured and sentenced to death 

Assassination Motives

  • The motives for the assassination have been numerous and controversial 
  • Unplanned and Impulsive
    • Reasoning: Kim had been under extreme pressure for months and the “final” straw was the dinner criticism
    • He had to go get a gun from another building
    • He had no plan for after the assassination
  • Deliberate and Premeditated
    • He claims to have attempted to assassinated Park three separate times once in 1974 (when he became appointed Minister of Construction) and twice in 1979 (one was a called off attempt at a similar banquet)
    • Shortly before the banquet, he told Chief Secretary Kim Gye-Won he was going to get rid of Cha
    • The “impulsive” argument was defended by Kim Gye-Won and Army Chief of Staff Jeong Seung-hwa since they were both suspected of being co-conspirators
  • Motivated by jealousy of Cha
    • Kim was losing his position as Park’s no.2 
  • Motivated by a desire to restore democracy
    • In his last statement art his trial he said the first reason was to restore democracy
    • Yushin Constitution- Park broke his promise in from the 1971 presidential election that it would be his last term