Thursday, February 26, 2009

The cardinal and the first lady

[Update - In the comments, Park's letters are mentioned. A Joongang Ilbo article looks at his letters here.]

Cardinal Kim Sou-hwan's funeral is now past, but one of the interesting things about his passing is this:
The posthumous cornea donation by Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan has inspired many Koreans to sign up as organ donors.

Dr. Joo Choun-ki of Kangnam St. Mary’s Hospital, who performed the procedure and examined the corneas, said Kim had cataract surgery in 2001 but his corneas were good for transplantation. Two people at the top of the waitlist received a cornea each.
As a result of his example, many more people are registering to donate organs, and, perhaps being influenced by this, the government wants to make it easier to declare someone brain dead in order to get more organs to people on waiting list. As the latter article notes, "A shortage of organ donations has been a chronic problem in Korea," something that I looked at briefly here, so one hopes the effect of the late cardinal's example is a lasting one.

Regarding his funeral, a Korea Times article asked, "Have We Mourned Like This Before?" The answer is, of course, yes. The most recent example would be this, from a year ago:

Of course, the masses of people who came here were paying their respects to a building, not a person

Other funerals came into my head, such as Park Chung-hee's, in 1979. Upon searching, I found this article (and others), which suggested Park and Kim Ku (whose 1949 funeral can be seen here) as precedents. It also suggested a third person, and the first that came to mind for me.

Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan at the Blue House in 1969 celebrating
Park Geun-hye's graduation from (the Catholic) Sungshin High School.

In the center of the above photo, standing next to her husband Park Chung-hee, is Yuk Yeong-su, the first lady. Here are some photos of her from a book I found at Yonsei University Library a few years ago:

She has been described as being "widely revered," and the photos above may suggest why. On August 15, 1974, she accompanied her husband who was giving an Independence Day speech.

As you saw, Park's speech was interrupted by Mun Se-gwang, a Korean resident of Japan, who fired shots at him. Park ducked behind the bulletproof podium and as shots were exchanged between Mun and security, his wife was hit.

(Photo from here)

She died later that evening. Also killed by a ricocheting bullet was high school student Jang Bong-hwa. As can be seen in the video, her funeral was attended by thousands of people.

The western media often referred to Park as being 'tough', and in the video it's not hard to see why, as he stepped up and continued his speech.

What I like about the above photo is that it reminds you that, yes, he was not some mythical figure (despite the arguments of those who like to posthumously canonize or crucify him), but very human.

Other photos of Yuk Yeong-su, in her childhood or with her husband can be found here and here.

One wonders, however, what Park would have thought of people referring to him as "몸짱!"


Anonymous said...

Two things:

1) In case you are interested, regarding organ donation by religious figures: Ven. Beopjang, former patriarch of the Jogye Order donated his body after his death.

2) Re: Pak Jeonghee. One need not be a "mythical figure" to be worthy of crucifixion. Your comment informing us of Pak Dokje-nom's ability to cry for his dead wife is a bit cringe worthy, disrespecting those who most vehemently fought his rule and struggled on in the name of their friends and comrades who he tortured and killed. His crying for his dead wife doesn't make him any less of a homicidal, torturing bastard. The fact that he did know love and sorrow makes his sins all that more horrible and his failure as a human all the more tragic. Had he simply been a psycho/sociopath, devoid of feeling, he wouldn't be worthy of crucifixion, but rather the asylum.

Mark Russell said...

Hi Matt:

Another great post and that video was a great find.

I completely disagree with the anonymous poster. Nothing disrespectful about your Park comment at all. It was a fine bit of nuance about a former dictator.

kushibo said...

I knew of the assassination attempt (and the killing of his wife) but I didn't realize he continued the speech.

Interesting work as always.

Charles Montgomery said...


he did, but the death of his wife also had a profoundly sad effect on him. I read some of his diary entries after her death and, "homicidal, torturing bastard aside, he seemed deeply in love, and crushed by her death...