Wisdom of Korea (2006, January -- July )


Rhee and Korean typewriters

Y. S. Kim (2006.1.12)

I have been writing stories about Rhee Seungman, who was Korea's first PhD and Korea's first president. There is a controversy about whether he should be called the founding president of Korea. Most Koreans think he was an evil man who did more damage to Korea than any one else. I disagree with them.

One of the readers of my mails wrote me saying that I am completely crazy because Rhee was as bad as Yeonsan-Goon. He told me I am stupid enough not to know Rhee once attempted to abolish the Hangeul composition rule (matchoom bup). Yes, it is true, and I was and still am aware of it.

As you know, each character in Hangeul is a two-by-two matrix consisting of four elements. In old days, only three elements were used, without south-west element. These days, all four elements are used when needed. For this, the rules are somewhat complicated but we have a satisfactory way of handling this problem. We call this "Hangeul Matchoom Bup Tong-il An." This is still a proposal, and there are no laws telling us to use this plan. Yet, it works well and we are very proud of it.

We know how English typewriters work. It is a single line construction. For Hangeul, we have to construct a two-by-two matrix for each character. I still do not know how it works mechanically. Apparently, it is easier to make typewriters with three elements instead of four. Indeed, before 1945, a Korean business in the United States was developing a Hangeul typing machine based on the old-fashioned three-element composition rule. Rhee was aware of this, and he personally liked the old composition rule. He thought, in this way, Koreans could type everything as Americans did. I think he wanted to push through the law forbidding the new composition rule which we use these days. He failed. Perhaps, this is the only plan Rhee could not enforce during his presidency.

While he was pushing his idea which looked totally stupid to all Koreans, there was someone in Korea who was developing a typewriter consistent with the new composition rule. His name was Kong Byung-Woo. He was an eye surgeon who made money from his medical practice. I knew him and his children. He has his unique idea about how to live and how to love thy country and world. He used to give a two-hour lecture to everybody he meets. Dr. Kong invested a bulk of his private fortune to the development of Korean typewriters. By 1950, he had several experimental typing machines. When the North Korean army occupied Seoul during the summer of 1950, they took them to North Korea, and they used them during the Panmunjom cease-fire negotiations (1951-3).

Also during the Korean War, Dr. Kong continued his research. His research was supported in part by the Korean navy. His eldest daughter used to go to the Chinhae naval base to teach navy scientists how to use the Kong Byung-Woo typewriter. Rhee found out this and became very happy about Kong's invention. He then ordered all branches of the armed forces to use this new typing machine.

In case you did not know, typewriters in those days were purely mechanical devices requiring precession engineering. It was true even for English typewriters. In order to develop and produce Korean typewriters, Dr. Kong needed American facilities. Initially, he received technical and production assistance from Underwood Typewriter Company, but later from Smith-Corona after after the Underwood was sold to Italy's Olivetti.

The Underwood Company was very generous to Korea because its founder's brother was Horace Underwood who was the first Presbyterian missionary to Korea and the founder of Yonsei University. If you are a Yonsei graduate, you should have seen a building called "Underwood Hall." This building was built from the money donated by Typewriter Underwood, and thus named after him. Did you know this?

In 1972, Dr. Kong's son (two years older than I am) came to the United States. He was carrying advertising leaflets for the Kong typewriter. The leaflet carried three portraits. One for King Sejong, one for Rhee Seungman, and one for Park Chung-Hee. Both Rhee and Park, though they did not know how to type, did their best to encourage Koreans to use typing machines.

Gregory Henderson was widely known as an American professor deeply interested in Korean affairs. He served as a cultural attache at the U.S. embassy in Korea for many years until 1961. He had a Korean female secretary who could type English typewriters. Henderson bought one of the Kong Byung-Woo typewriters told his secretary to learn how to use it. She stubbornly refused to learn it. Henderson described her attitude as "Sadae Sasang" in Korean.

These days, my Korean friends laugh at me when I send them my e-mails in English. They say everybody in Korea knows how to use Hangeul word processors, and I am behind. The Hangeul typewriter has a very rich history.


Dangerous trend in Korean science

Y.S.Kim (2006.2.6)

Last night, I attended a party where a number of "high-ranking" Koreans had informal talks with four visiting national assembly men. One of them was Kim Duk-Ryong, who is known as a YS man. I asked him whether he accompanied YS or Y3 when he came to Washington in 1978. He said No. He laughed when I explained to him that he got his YS title then in Washington, while I have been known as YS in physics since 1961. We had pleasant talks about the former president as a charming person.

However, I did not tell him about Y3's lack of ability to make sound scientific judgements. During his presidency (1992-97), the Korean government initiated very lofty and expensive scientific projects with big slogans. I do not know where they stand these days.

In order to point out this dangerous trend, I wrote the following article about Rhee's science project without any scientific foundation. I am attaching this article because it tells about what is happening in Korean science these days.

-- Please continue reading.

Lessons from Rhee's H-bomb project

Y.S.Kim (1995.11.19)

When I was in junior high school, I had a "high-tech" skill of repairing radio sets, and I used to fix radios for some "high-class" people in Korea. They did not pay me money, but they praised me as the scientist who would build Korea's first atom bomb. Ridiculous, but not so ridiculous in view of the Ben Lee phenomenon 40 years later.

Due to the War, I lived in Chinhae from July of 1950 to August of 1951. One day in the spring of 1951, the assistant to the Commander of the Chinhae Naval Base came to me with his jeep and told me that I had to go somewhere. I assumed that the radio set in the Commander's house broke down, but the jeep went into a secret lab within the naval base heavily guarded by machine guns.

In the lab, I met two naval officers. One was a grey-haired colonel (called captain in navy) and a young major (called lt. commander in navy). The grey-haired scientist was called Lee Yong Dae, but he could speak only Japanese. I do not remember the name of the young scientist, but I remember his face. He was Prof. Lee Tong Nyong (now at Pohang Univ.). He thought I was hopeless and asked me whether I could understand what was going on. I said No.

The navy officer who took me there told me that I should look at the lab very carefully but should not tell anyone about my visit there. Korean authorities thought the lab was a hydrogen bomb factory, and that the future bomb maker like myself should be briefed about the project. Hard to believe? In general, the readers of my articles regard me as an honest person.

The story goes like this. During the 6.25 War, some Korean naval ships received their maintenance services in the U.S. naval bases in Japan. Thus, Korean authorities were able to gather "reliable" intelligence information about Japan from the naval officers who went there frequently. One day, President Rhee Seung-Man received an intelligence report that there is in Japan a scientist who knows how to make hydrogen bombs, but his talent is not recognized in the U.S.-occupied Japan. Rhee immediately ordered his Navy Chief of Staff to bring (illegally) the Japanese scientist to Korea, and make hydrogen bombs. That was how the above-mentioned secret lab was built within the Chinhae Naval Base. This happened before the United Sates tested the first hydrogen bomb in 1952.

Korean authorities knew the word hydrogen, but did not know the difference between atomic ionization and nuclear fusion. The hydrogen atom can be separated from the water molecule, and Japanese once thought they could use so-separated hydrogen for aircraft fuel. The grey-haired Japanese scientist was an expert on ionization, not on fusion. Thus, he was able to make car batteries, not the hydrogen bomb. It was Prof. Lee Tong Nyong who explained this to the authorities. Fortunately, the hydrogen bomb factory later became a battery-making factory. This was how Korea's first profitable battery factory was built.

In 1987 in Los Angeles, I met the man (former navy intelligence officer) who in 1951 submitted the intelligence report about the hydrogen bomb to the Office of the President. I asked him whether he was still in intelligence business. He did not answer my question (perhaps usual habit of intelligence people). One year later, I read his article published in one of the Korean newspapers in the U.S. Alas! He said there that the project was indeed a bomb project.

This incident teaches us many lessons.

First. We cannot blame Rhee Seung-Man for not knowing anything about science. He was a politician. Quite contrary to what our young people say these days, he was thoroughly anti-Japanese. Yet, he thought we had to "steal" science and technology from Japan. He had enough political guts to "kidnap" a Japanese citizen to Korea. Indeed, Rhee's idea had a very profound influence on me in dealing with Japanese. I became intensely interested in Japan after learning about Rhee's "romantic" venture. I hope to be able to tell you someday how I tried to imitate Rhee in designing my own research program.

Second. It is not an easy task for authorities to make sound scientific judgments. The ill-fated U.S. SSC project tells the story. It is not always clear to me whether Korea's decision-making processes these days are any better than the process which led to Rhee's hydrogen bomb project in 1951. I still think the first priority should be given to the investment in science education. We need more professors to reduce teaching loads on our young scientists. Otherwise, we cannot compete with Japan.

Third. The above-mentioned hydrogen bomb expert apparently was not a respected scientist in Japan. There are these days foreign scientists who come to Korea and get treated like prophets. Before inviting them, we should examine carefully how much they are respected in their own countries. If a foreign scientist wants to hold a conference in Korea, it is a good idea to check if he/she has a record of holding a conference in his/her home turf.

Fourth. Our relation with Japan will become more complicated in the future. As I said before, we should understand them if we are to produce sound policies toward them. After I started talking about Japan, I received mails from a number of people saying that they have many Japanese friends. If they know about Japan, and if I know about Japan, we should combine our knowledge, instead of quarreling over who is Korea's "No. 1" expert on Japan.


An old secret about Seoul National University

Y.S.Kim (2006.4.16)

I said this many times before, but I have to refresh your memory. When I got my PhD degree in 1961, Korea was a bankrupt country, and Koreans were starving. Whenever I saw the photo of Park Chung-Hee appearing in American mass media, I used to become depressed, not because of his military dictatorship, but because of his skinny face.

I decided to contribute $1,000 to SNU to carry out a research on how to produce more rice for Koreans. At that time, you could buy a new car for $2,000. The president of SNU was Dr. Yoon Il-Sun, and he sent me a kind letter saying that he assigned my proposed research to a team of young professors at the College of Agriculture in Suwon.

In contributing that much money, I had two purposes in mind. One was of course to support a research on the crucial subject for my country. The second purpose was more important. I knew I was not a rich man, but a man with ideas. In order to tell the people about my idea, talking was not enough. I had to illustrate it by showing examples.

Koreans are very generous to education. Rich Koreans like to build schools or donate money to schools. My idea was that those with money should also fund research programs conducted at universities. This practice was and still is very common in the United States. I learned this from Americans, because the research leading to my degree was paid by rich Americans.

Outside funding for university research programs was totally strange to Koreans at that time. Yet, I was naive enough to think my example would tell a story to the university people and potential contributors. I was indeed naive. I am still finding out there are still many influential people who firmly believe that universities are strictly educational institutions having nothing to do with research. As late as in 1990, a dean of graduate school from one of Seoul's top universities cursed me loudly when I started talking about research aspects of graduate schools. He warned me not to mention research again in front of him.

During the period 1961-2, the research team supported my money did a careful job and wrote a report saying that there is a strong correlation between the rice price and the productivity of farmers. Their conclusion was that we have to raise the price of rice to produce more. This was a very strange conclusion for Koreans at that time. Yet, it was a very interesting result to me, and I sent a copy of the report to Korea's No. 1 man in economics who was visiting Columbia University in New York. He was of course a highly respected SNU professor.

About two weeks later, I got a letter from him. I became excited and opened the envelop with a great expectation. I was expecting a comment from him that the research result is interesting and/or that it is a good idea to attract outside money for university research programs. It was not what he said. He was telling me to send him a check to him so that he could pay his overdue rent. That was all he said. He apparently read the acknowledgment section of the report telling who supported their research. I became totally disillusioned.

This SNU professor was as old as my father. If his attitude to his students is like this, those students are well justified to complain about the elder generations.

However, my experience with younger SNU graduates was becoming worse and worse. This resulted in the recent infamous incident connected with Hwang Wu-Suk. The sad aspect is that the Hwang case is not an isolated incident. It is simply a reflection of SNU's research culture. Things like this will happen again and again.

I have been very firm on my assertion that SNU should be closed down. People ask me whether I have enough power to do anything about an institution like SNU. I would like to give my answer in the following way.

China has been and still is a very important country in the world. Many people in the past attempted to destroy China but failed. I often tell my Chinese friends that China can be destroyed by only one people. They are Chinese themselves. They agree with me. I then tell them that China is now being destroyed by Chinese. Some young Chinese become angry at me, but most of the mature Chinese tell me they understand what I am saying.

Likewise, I do not have to destroy SNU to close it down. It is being destroyed by its faculty, its alumni, and its students.


New problems for Rhee in 1955

Y.S.Kim (2006.4.26)

As you know, I have been writing stories about Rhee Seungman for sometime. I will continue writing more stories in future months. In the meantime, I have been writing stories about Albert Einstein, and I am now working on a website for him. You are invited to visit

http://ysfine.com/einstein

to entertain your curiosity.

In addition to the historical role he played in physics, I am reporting there my own research about Einstein. The point is that Einstein's philosophical base is that of Immanuel Kant, while our way of thinking is based on Taoism imported from the Tang Dynasty of China. I am saying that Kantianism and Taoism are essentially the same.

I say also that Kantianism is very strange to Americans, although they are extremely creative like Edison and Bill Gates. It is known that Einstein did not communicate well American scientists. If you, as a Korean, cannot communicate well with Americans, it is because you think like Einstein.

As for Rhee, I will be talking about his final years starting from 1955. I will be talking about the presidential election of 1956. But the most interesting story will be how he was able to maintain his power, in spite of total lack of public support. He was able to control of the Korean army. He also enjoyed the continued support from his home base, namely the United States.

Please wait for my future mails for detailed stories. I am somewhat tired tonight, and you will allow me to go to bed early.


Post-ceasefire environment

Y.S.Kim (2006.4.28)

After three years of bloody war, the three-party ceasefire was signed by North Korea, China, and the United States on July 27 of 1953. The (south) Korean government did not participate in this agreement. The ceasefire document said that neither side should increase the size of armed forces, but this provision was thoroughly ignored. The North brought in more advanced weapons from the Soviet Union, and increased the size of the army from 200,000 to 600,000. The South was doing the same.

One year after the Panmunjom ceasefire, the Chinese announced that all Chinese troops (about 500,000) would be withdrawn from the North and asked the United States to do the same. However, this is a meaningless move because it is trivial for those troops to cross the Chinese-Korean border. Not because of the Chinese demand, but because of domestic politics, the United States had to drastically reduce its troop strength in Korea.

While reducing the number of foot soldiers, the United States brought into Korea one thousand nuclear warheads. Those dreadful weapons were for containing China as well as for restraining Japan, because there were not many nuclear targets in North Korea. While Americans were quiet about their weapons, Japanese were quite sensitive about them. I used to rely on Japan's Asahi newspaper for what was happening to those nuclear animals. They were withdrawn from Korea in 1990.

As for the Korean army, Rhee got a promise from Washington to equip and train up to 720,000 Korean troops. In 1953, the US army chief was Gen. Matthew Ridgeway. As I mentioned many times before, he was the commander of the US troops in Korea during the critical period covering the tragic 1.4 retreat in 1951. He was succeeded by Gen. Maxwell Taylor in 1955, who moved directly from his position in Korea. He was the army chief until 1959 when Gen. Lyman Lemnitzer succeeded him. Lemnitzer also moved to Washington directly from Seoul.

This tells how important Korea was from the Pentagon's point of view. To American military planners, the Korean army was a very important component of their own army. This was how the Korean army grew. Rhee Seungman of course knew all these, and his No. 1 priority was to maintain a firm grip on the Korean army. I will continue this story next time.

As you know, I respect Matthew Ridgeway as a valiant and highly- disciplined soldier and an exceedingly warm-hearted human being. While he was the army chief from 1953 to 1955, Washington's politicians were talking about sending American troops to Vietnam where France was losing their war against Hoh Chi Minh's troops. Ridgeway was firmly against the military intervention there, and won the president's favor. The president was also an army man, and his name was Dwight Eisenhower. That is why American had to wait until 1963 to go to Vietnam. I am mentioning this because newspapers these days talk about conflicts between civilian rulers and military people.

Ridgeway was so disgusted with politicians that he decided to retire after serving only two years. The army chief's tenure is normally four years. After the retirement, he become the chairman of the board of trustees for Mellon Institute in Pittsburgh, while I was a student at Carnegie Institute of Technology. These two institutions later became combined to become Carnegie-Mellon University. I assume Ridgeway had a foresight.


Shin Ik-Hee

Y.S.Kim (2006.5.1)

Do you know who Shin Ik-Hee was? You all know there was a group of Koreans in China who formed the Korean Provisional Government in Shanghai. Some politicians these days assert that they are inheriting the legitimacy of the Shanghai government. Do they know what they are talking about?

Let us ask the following question. What souvenir did those Shanghai people leave to us? Shin Ik-Hee was a member of the Shanghai government. I do not know exactly what position he held there, but he was a very quiet practical administrator. He had many friends among well-to-do Koreans in Korea.

After coming back to Korea in 1945, most of those Shanghai government formed a political party called "Hankook Dokrip Dang" centered around Kim Koo. As you know, Kim Koo was firmly against setting up separate governments in the South and North. Shin Ik-Hee however developed a more practical plan: follow the line of Rhee Seungman who could talk to Americans. Instead of joining Kim Koo's group, he set up his own party called "Kookmin Dang," and set up a college called "Kookmin College in 1946. Although, his political inclination was different from the orthodox Kim Koo faction, all those Shanghai people including Kim Koo were on the board of trustees for Shin's college.

These days, this college is called "Kookmin University." It is interesting to note that all those political parties perished, but the university still thrives. Yes, Kookmin University remains as a legacy of the Korean Provisional government in Shanghai. Did you know this?

On May 10, 1948, Shin Ik-Hee was elected as a national assembly man, and became one of the two vice chairpersons of the assembly. Rhee Seungman was the chairman. After Rhee became the president, Shin became the chairman of this constitutional assembly. He served his country well as the assembly chairman until 1956.

Because of Rhee's old age, Koreans always asked who would be the national leader after Rhee. The answer to this question was Shin Ik-Hee to almost all Koreans.

Shin knew that his political party (Kookmin Dang) did not have much impact on Korean politics. After seeing Rhee's dictatorial behavior, he decided to combine his party with a stronger political organization, namely Hankook Minju Dang (called Hanmin Dang) consisting of well-to-do Koreans. They were well-to-do because they got along with Japanese rulers before 1945. The combined party was called "Minju Kookmin Dang" (Minkook Dang). This Minkook Dang was able to put up credible oppositions to Rhee Seungman.

In the presidential election of 1956, Shin Ik-Hee was the candidate from the opposition party, but he died on a train during the campaign. It was a sad day for Korea, because Koreans really wanted to see the election result. The election was reasonably honest, because the opposition candidate won in the vice-presidential race.

Yes, Rhee was worried, but not much about the opposition party. Koreans at that time were to select a king-like figure for the president, and nobody could match Rhee. Does this mean that Rhee never worried about threats to his position?

There were two major threats to Rhee's presidency. One was the anti- colonialist base which Park Hun-Young used to establish his communist party. Park's organization was thoroughly destroyed by Rhee's agents before 1950, and was cleaned up by Park's North Korean "comrades" during the Korean War. Cho Bong-Am attempted to construct his political base using the base Park once used. However, it was easy for Rhee to eliminate Cho's force because Cho did not have a backing from the United States. I talked about Cho Bong-Am in my earlier articles. Cho's influence however is quite relevant to present-day politics in Korea.

The other, the most serious, threat was the Korean army controlled by the United States. Rhee knew that Americans could use the Korean army to eliminate him. He had to be careful on this front. ----- Foreign Students enrolled in Colleges and Universities in the United States (as of December 2004): How many? from Korea 86,626 India 77,220 China 59,343 Japan 54,816 Taiwan 36.091

In 1958, the total number of Korean students in the U.S. was less than 1,500. In 1954, when I came, the number was less than 500. There were perhaps less than 1,000 residents of Korean origin. These days, there are as many as two million Korean residents in the United States. YSK


Why was Rhee so afraid of his army?

Y.S.Kim (2006.5.2)

To Rhee, the most serious threat to his presidency was the Korean army. Why? During the 1952 constitutional crises, Rhee attempted to use the army to shut down the national assembly. But the army chief, Lt.Gen. Lee Jong-Chan, refused to obey Rhee's order. Rhee could not punish Gen. Lee because he was in effect an important man in the U.S.army.

During the bitter disagreement between Rhee and Washington on ceasefire negotiations in 1953, some Americans developed a plan to stage a coup against Rhee using Korean troops. However, Eisenhower, the U.S. president, did not approve the plan. Eisenhower had a great personal respect for Rhee, in spite of their disagreement.

As the size of the U.S. army became reduced from 330,000 to 70,00 (two divisions) after the ceasefire, Koreans became more responsible for their own army. The immediate result was more corruption. I will talk more about this subject in later articles.

Another factor was Korea's traditional factionalism. These days, it is very difficult to settle the quarrel between the Honam and Yeongnam factions. Until 1960, high-ranking Korean officers were mostly from the northern provinces. There were Pyongan and Hamkyung factions. Chung Il-Kwon was the leader of the Hamkyung faction, while Paek Sun-Yup was the boss of the Pyongan faction. Since there were no firing battles, the army people had to fight among themselves.

Both Chung and Paek were four-star generals and Rhee's loyal supporters. They behaved like Rhee's sons. Rhee was in a position to stop their quarrel, but he did not. He even encouraged them to fight by telling them different stories. When Paek complained about Chung, Rhee said he was right. When Chung complained about Paek, Rhee said he was right. This is the classic case of "divide and conquer" to control. This Chung-Paek feud is still well known among Koreans who remember their names. In this way, Rhee kept those army people very busy. No time to think about plotting against Rhee!

This was not enough. Rhee placed both watch dogs and hunting dogs in the army. The head watch dog was Lt.Gen. Won Yong-Duk. The most notorious hunting dog was Maj.Gen. Kim Chang-Yong. I talked about Kim Chang-Yong in my earlier articles and put them on my wisdom website. Sometime ago, I received an email from someone in Switzerland saying that he is Kim's grandson, and that he read my articles about him. He said his grandfather was a very kind person, contrary to what I said. I hope I can find his e-mail address and send him the stories I intend to write.


Corruption in the army

Y.S.Kim (2006.5.4)

After the 1954 assembly election, Rhee's Chayoo Dang was able to maintain the majority in the national assembly. Thus, the Chayoo Dang members invited Rhee repeatedly to come to the assembly hall to give speeches and become friendly with them. But he never accepted their invitation. Those assembly men asked Rhee why he is not coming to them. Rhee said "you assembly people do not like me."

On the other hand, Rhee was very diligent in attending army ceremonies even at the regimental level. Korean army divisions were commanded by one-star or two-star generals, and regimental commanders were colonels or lt.colonels. They were young and Rhee was like their grandpa. It was a great honor for them to walk with Rhee to review their troops, and to sit next to him during the ceremonies. In this way, Rhee had an in-road to main body of the Korean army.

Thus, those commanders thought they could talk directly to Rhee whenever they have complaints, even though they refrained themselves during the ceremonies. If the army is corrupt, the lower ranking soldiers and officers were victims. Those on front-line duties also got screwed, because they were far away from Seoul, and they could not complain to anyone. To them, therefor, only the president was the person who could listen to their complaints.

Let us see how the corruption took place. The army had trucks, while Koreans no other trucks at that time. Thus, the army officers could run transportation business using the army trucks and gasolines. They also used their soldiers for moving things to and from trucks.

Every able boy at that time had to go through the basic training center in Nonsan, which was commonly called "Nonsan University." There, the trainer sargents were very creative in taking money from those from reasonably rich family. Those sargent used to sell rice-cakes and sodas on the training routes. They did this while wearing uniforms. Sometimes, they were picked up by American inspectors. It would be interesting to write a corruption manual telling how to make money in the army. Yet, these are small bandits.

The most profitable business was from the kickbacks from suppliers. The food suppliers got the money, but they do not deliver enough nutrition. They did this by giving the appropriate army officials a portion of their profits from the reduced supply. Sometimes, the savings amounted as much as 50 percent of the appropriated funds.

The same was to the cloth suppliers. Because of the corruption, the front-line soldiers used to get inferior-quality uniforms. The army uniforms was green, but they became white after three or four washings. Those soldiers did not get adequate blanket supplies, nor boots, socks, gloves. They had to live like beggars.

I do not know the exact location, but one front-line division received a supply of uniforms without sleeves. The division commander became so upset that he decided to show those uniforms to Rhee directly. He felt he could see him like his grandfather, because Rhee once visited his unit. He came to Seoul with a pack of those defective uniforms to see the president, but he could not arrange an appointment with Rhee.

One night, he had a drink with his old friends. While drunk, he ordered his jeep driver to go to the presidential mansion, with those uniforms. His jeep was stopped at the gate by the presidential guards, and he was told he could not see the president without proper protocol. He became so upset that he fired his pistol to the air.

This division commander was a brig.(one-star) general, and his name was Huh Tae-Young. It is thoroughly against the army code to fire a gun in front of the presidential residence. He was punished. His star was taken away, and became demoted to a colonel. The story becomes more tragic and interesting. Please wait for my next story.


Huh kills Kim Chang-Yong.

Y.S.Kim (2006.5.8)

As I said before, Kim Chang-Yong was placed as a hunting dog by Rhee Seungman. Rhee of course did this in order to protect his presidency. If Kim did not like anyone in the army, he becomes a communist or an anti-Rhee conspirator. He became so powerful that he could tell Rhee who should be the army chief of staff. In 1954, Kim told Rhee that Paek Sun-Yup should be replaced by Chung Il-Kwon as the army chief, and Chung became the chief.

After firing his pistol in front of the presidential mansion (called Kyung Moo Dae), Huh Tae-Young was arrested. It was quite clear to everybody that Huh had no intention of hurting Rhee, but his action was a very serious misconduct for a soldier wearing a star. Normally, he should have gone through a court-marshall and should be given a dishonorable discharge from the army at least. But Kim Chang-yong intervened because he was the army law. As his grandson told me, Kim was a warm-hearted person. Kim demoted Huh from one-star general to a colonel and allowed Huh to stay in the army as an intelligence officer. This is a very light sentence.

On the other hand, Huh did not take Kim's action very kindly. In January of 1956, Huh's gunmen shot Kim Chang-Yong in front of his house while he started to walking to office in the morning. This was one of the most serious events during Rhee's presidency. Why? Did Huh do this alone, or was he ordered by the higher-ups in the army? The question was whether Rhee could trust his own army.

The country went through many agonizing months to determine who were behind Huh's action. Kim Chang-Yong was Rhee's most-trusted man in the army, but he ordered the investigation not to reach the four-star level. At that time, there were only three four-star generals, namely Paek Sun-Yup, Chung Il-Kwon, and Lee Hyung-Keun. The investigation revealed that one three-star general was involved. His name was Kang Moon-Bong, known as the brain behind Chung Il-Kwon. The question then is whether Chung was also involved.

I will talk more about this issue next time.


Huh talks to Chung Il-Kwon

Y.S.Kim (2006.5.11)

After the assassination of Kim Chang-Yong, the Korean army went through an extensive investagation of who the assassin was and who were behind him, with one restriction. The restriction was not to implicate any of the four-star generals. However, I am not bound by this restriction. I will start my story with one of those four-star men.

General Chung Il-Kwon was the chief of staff at that time. In his memoir, he talks about Huh Tae-Young. After getting demoted to a colonel, Huh came to Chung's office to talk about things. They were very good friends. Huh told Chung that he was going to feed Chang-Yong (that son of bitch) with black beans (gam-zung-kong-al)(shoot to kill). Chung then said "You idiot! Do you know where you are? This is the office of the chief of staff. I will ignore what you said regarding it as a joke." In this way, Chung Il-Kwon admits he was the first one to find a possible gun-man to eliminate Kim Chang-Yong.

Even before the incident of Huh Tae-Young, there was an army-wide discontent against Rhee's watch dog and hunting dog, namely Lt.Gen. Won Yong-Duk and Maj.Gen. Kim Chang-Yong. They were very reckless because Rhee was always behind them. Furthermore, they were not soldiers. The Korean army in 1955 was a product of the Korean war, and was a tight fraternal organization among the war veterans who risked their lives. Neither Kim nor Won fired a single shot in the front line.

I can understand how they were despised by those combat veterans. At my age, I still spend most of my time on research and related activities. There are however many Korean non-scientists who are are bragging about their home-made Gamtu. There are still Korean organizations called KSEA and AKPA. I do not know what they do and what those letters stand for, but I know that they still exists due to Gamtu-loving passion among those backward Koreans. As late as last year, one of them attempted to beat me up because I am so unpatriotic. I have to apologize to my young colleagues for not being able to eliminate them.

Indeed, the army people had been doing an extensive research on how to eliminate those two front men of Rhee. By telling Chung exactly what he had in mind, Huh initiated the army's plan to eliminate them. I will talk more about the plan next time.

Won Yong-Duk was a graduate of Severance Medical College in Seoul and served as an army doctor in the Manchu army controlled by Japanese. He headed the 8th Regiment stationed in Choonchun in the initial stage the Korean of army, but he took care of Rhee's politics during the War. He helped Rhee during the 1952 constitutional crisis. Won also organized Rhee's release of non-communist prisoners of war in 1953.

Because he was not a soldier, he was skilful in talking to politicians. His job was to attend parties and drink there. In that way, he found out what was going on in the army and among politicians. While he was an army doctor in Machu, he treated a young Korean officer with passion. The young Korean officer was Park Chung-Hee, who was beaten by his Japanese colleagues because he was not obedient to them.

In 80% of medical cases, doctors cure by talking to patients. Rhee was a psychiatric patient. He had to worry constantly about how to maintain his life-time presidency. Won was able to take case of this case. In this way, he became one Rhee's most trusted men.

I will talk about how Kim became so close to Rhee next time.


Rhee's enemies

Y.S.Kim (2006.5.15)

Before returning to Korea in October (1945), Rhee Seungman knew who his political enemies were. The first group of his enemies was the communist organization initially headed by Park Hun-Young. Although not enemies, Rhee never expected comfortable relations with the group of people from the Shanghai provisional government, nor with the Hanmin-Dang group consisting of well-to-do Koreans.

Rhee was alone, but coincidentally was able to get a strong support from the group of Koreans who fled from the North. Before coming down to the South, those 38 refugees had enjoyed relatively good life in their home towns. They were well-educated and mostly Christians. This is the reason why they were kicked out by the communist regime being installed in the North. I am one of those northerners. This perhaps is the reason why I still like Rhee.

They filled the ranks and files of Korean police and Korean army. They were determined to destroy communists in the South. They were very brutal to those who were suspected to be leftists. But this excessive force was not enough to route out the communist organizations. For this purpose, Rhee needed professional police people. Unfortunately, Rhee had to hire those who used to work for Japanese police and Japanese army.

Roh Deok-Sool had worked for Japanese police as a officer in charge of detecting those engaged in anti-Japanese activities. Roh became the central figure in Korean police after Rhee's assumed his presidency in 1948. Roh was a controversial figure at that time. Koreans did not like him. I do not know what happened after 1950, because I never heard about him during and after the Korean War.

The person who became most prominent sine 1948 was a young army officer named Kim Chang-Yong. When Americans came to Korea in 1945, Park Hun-Young's communist group surfaced and started consolidating their position. However, in May of 1946, American military authorities issued an arrest warrant against him for printing illegal money. Park had to flee to the North.

After Park, the communist party, known today as Nam-Ro-Dang, was led by Kim Sam-Ryong and Lee Joo-Ha. Kim worked with Park at a brick factory in Gwangju before August of 1945. Kim was Park's right-hand man. Lee Joo-Ha studied in Japan and worked for labor unions before 1945. After Park surfaced to the Korean political scene, he became Park's left-hand man. These two communists were commanding effective underground terrorist activities against government facilities and local government officials.

Rhee's most difficult problem was to arrest these two communist leaders. This job was carried out by Kim Chang-Yong. As I said before, he was a Kenpei Kojo in Japanese army in Manchu in charge of arresting those Chinese and Koreans engaged in anti-Japanese activities. He is still hated by Koreans.

The rank of Kojo means the lowest-ranking Japanese soldier allowed to carry Nippon-do (Japanese sword). This means that the soldier reached the Samurai status in Japanese society. It was a great honor for Koreans to reach this status. Kim used to carry this sword.

In addition, Kim Chang-Yong was able to detect spy-activities staged by Kim Soo-Im. Kim Soo-Im was an English professor at Ewha University and the first prominent woman communist in Korea. I already wrote a story about her in one of my previous articles.

Those three communists arrested by Kim Chang-Yong were shot to death on the sand beach of the Han River on June 28, one day before the North Korean tanks moved into Seoul.

The most interesting question about Kim would be what role he played in the assassination of Kim Koo in 1949. I will continue the story next time.


Kim Chang-Yong and Ahn Doo-Hee

Y.S.Kim (2006.5.17)

On June 26 (1949), Ahn Doo-Hee fired his 45-caliber pistol at Kim Koo He did this in Kim Koo's study on the second floor of his residence. While coming down the stair, he shouted "I just killed Kim Koo" and dropped his pistol. Kim's aides were astonished and started beating Ahn. Then suddenly an army jeep appeared and a young officer came to the scene. He then escorted away Ahn while shouting "how could you dare to beat a soldier?" Yes, Ahn Doo-Hee was a second lieutenant from the artillery corps of the Korean army.

The young officer who took Ahn away was later known to be Kim Chang-Yong. Many people these days believe Kim was the main figure behind the assassination plot, but he was not high enough. He was an obscure lieutenant carrying out orders from his superiors. The best description of his job was to safe-guard Ahn Doo-Hee. He provided very kind personal care to Ahn while he was in jail.

Kim Chang-Yong became prominent after arresting the top communists leaders later in 1949, and became promoted to a captain of the army. On June 26 (1950), the day after the 6.25 war broke out, Kim went to Ahn Doo-Hee's jail cell and invited him to rejoin the army with a higher rank. He became a major by August of 1950. In his memoir Ahn claimed that he earned this rapid promotion because he put up brilliant battles against communists, but this is a red-hot lie.

When the territory of Korea became reduced to the Busan perimeter surrounded by Masan, Daegu, Youngchon, and Pohang during the period of July-September of 1950, that area was under martial law. Kim Chang-Yong became the law enforcement officer within this small area. There, Kim ordered Major Chang Eun-San to be executed. Chang was shot to death in August of 1950.

Who was Chang Eun-San? He was the commander of the artillery corps, to which Ahn Doo-Hee belonged. Chang was the chief of staff of the operation to eliminate Kim Koo. Shortly after the assassination, Chang went to the United States for training. At that time, the Korean army had six 10mm guns, and about 50 trainer guns. Not many knew how to fire those guns. Ahn Doo-Hee was hired as an artillery officer because he knew sine and cosine.

Chang had to interrupt his training in the U.S. and come back to Korea to fight for his country. When he came back to Busan, his toy-gun unit did not exist, and he was a jobless man in the army. The only thing he could do was to drink and talk about his past "glory" including being Ahn Doo-Hee's boss. He then joined a group of army officers who attempted to buy a ship to run away to Japan. He was caught by Kim Chang-Yong. For Kim, it was a golden opportunity to shut down Chang's mouth.

Nobody believes Kim Koo's assassination was initiated by an army officer at the rank of major. Indeed, Chang Eun-San was the only person to tell who ordered him to carry out the operation. Kim Chang-Yong's role in the Kim Koo assassination was therefore to make its background story permanently unknown.

I wrote a story about Chang Eun-San in one of my past articles. It is an interesting story to Korean scientists. I am attaching it for your convenience.

-- Please continue reading.

Two brilliant Koreans in 1943

Y.S.Kim (2002.3.23)

Tonight, I will talk about two Koreans who played their roles in Korea's recent history. One is Dr. Cho Byung-Ha, and the other is Major Chang Eun-San of the Korean Army. Both of them were brilliant young boys in 1943 with exceptional mathematical talent. They were forced to enter the Japanese Military Academy to become "faithful children" of the Japanese Emperor.

The curriculum of the Academy did not include any courses on logistics. This is one of the major reasons why the Japanese army performed so poorly in the Pacific War. On the other hand, the curriculum was very strong in mathematics. The Japanese army copied their artillery system from France, and their officers had a good training in Lagrangian dynamics covering centrifugal and Coriolis forces caused by the earth's gravity and rotation. Naturally, those two Korean boys became fascinated by what they learned in the Academy. After the war was over in 1945, they came back to Korea with romantic dreams for their own country.

One of them was interested in constructing a strong artillery unit for the Korean army. He became the commander of the Korean artillery corps with 92 (mostly useless) artillery pieces in 1948. He was a very young man at age 23. His name was Chang Eun-San. The other was interested in building a nuclear bomb for Korea, and studied physics. His name was Cho Byung-Ha. Dr. Cho had many crazy original ideas in physics, but made his contributions to Korean science primarily through his organizational talent. I liked him very much because he was able to see that I also a talent along the same direction. He used to send me his Hew Year's greetings. To many Koreans, he is known as the first president of KAIST.

In 1986, I met Dr. Cho in Philadelphia and spent one evening with him. We talked about everything under the sun and moon, including one of the Korean ladies known to him, to me and to a third party. At one point, I asked him why Major Chang Eun-San was so swiftly executed in August of 1950. I was more specific. Was it because he attempted to flee to Japan when the North Korean army staged a three-pronged attack against Young-Chun, Taegu and Masan? Was it because he acted as "the chief of staff" for Kim Koo's assassination? Dr. Cho clearly told me it was due to both. He said he knew Chang Eun-San very well, but he did not want to elaborate on the extent of their friendship. From my point of view, I asked the right question to the right man, and got the right answer.

Next time, I will talk more about Chang Eun-San. Of course, I do not approve of what he did. Yet, I am mentioning these two scientists tonight in order to point out they were different from today's young Koreans. The first difference is that young Koreans in 1943 had very limited options, yet they were able to manufacture their own dreams for themselves and for their country. Of course, there were many Koreans they could blame, but they did not.

Those two Koreans, while attending the most prestigious school in Japan, did everything to prove they were smarter than their Japanese classmates. Today's young people constantly blame pro-Japanese traitors. When I ask them what kind of car they drive, they say "Honda." When I ask them whether they are willing compete with their Japanese colleagues, they say I am asking a meaningless question because Japan is an advanced country. This is not the answer Koreans like to hear. Indeed, they are the real traitors.


Koreans in New York

Y.S.Kim (2006.5.25)

I came back after spending two nights and three days in New York. It takes three hours to go there by train from my place. The train stops at the Pennsylvania Station. I then check in to the Hotel Pennsylvania just front of the station on the 7th Avenue at the 32nd Street.

If I walk one block along the 32nd Street, I get to the 6th Ave. From there, New York's Korea Town begins. The block from 6th to 5th Avenue consists entirely of Korean stores and Korean restaurants. If I cross the 5th Ave. and walk toward Madison Avenue, there are two Japanese restaurants operated by Koreans. The restaurant which used to be called "Minado" (harbor) recently changed its name to "Todai" (light house). The Korean manager did not get along the Japanese chain owner in New Jersey. The restaurant is doing very well, and I go there whenever I am in New York.

As you know, I enjoy talking with all kinds of people. When I meet, I tell them I have been to their country. I also do not mind talking to Americans. Americans in New York are saying that Koreans are worse than Jews. They are clannish, and take over away their business, and send their children only to first-class universities.

While I was walking along the 5th Avenue, I spotted a cloth store called "Cambridge" well stocked with latest-fashion suits and sport coats. I went into the store and looked at their items. The sales person knew what my size is by looking at me. To me, he looked like Menachem Begin, and I told this to him. He told he is indeed a Jew and is 80 years old.

Do you know who Menachem Begin was? He worked for Israel's independence in his early years and staged some terrorist activities against British occupiers. He formed a conservative political party called Likud in his country and became the prime minister in 1977. He was able to manage a peace treaty with Egypt in 1978. For this, he shared 1979 Nobel peace prize with Anwat Sadat (Egyptian president).

After exchanging some pleasant conversations, the Jewish sales man asked what my last name is. He then told me his store is owned by a Korean business man named Mr. Kim. I told him it is in the other way around. Koreans used work at Jewish stores in New York. I never heard of Jews working at Korean stores. He told me it is because Koreans are worse than Jews.

I had a dinner with my long-time colleague, Marilyn Noz, at a French restaurant called "Paris Match" on the East 65th Street. I told this story to her, and she laughed. She told me she already knew from me how bad Koreans are. Then a lady at the next table told me that Jews are all good people. She told me she is Jewish and that, by now, Jews in New York are completely integrated into the America's main society while losing their identity.

I disagreed. I pulled out a pocket camera from my pocket and showed trademark on the lens, saying "Leica." She then became impressed. Yes, I carry a Panasonic digital camera with Leica lens. It is a combination of Japanese electronics and German lens optics. Before 1945, Japan's Matsusida Company used make decent-quality radio sets called "Nasio-Naru," and most of the radio sets in Korea before 1950 were Nasio-Naru brands. Matsusida attempted to market its electronic products in the United States, but there was a short-wave radio company called "National" in the U.S. That is the reason why Matsusida had to adopt a new trade mark called "Panasonic."

My colleague Marilyn is 100% American, and she heard about Leica before but she did not become emotional. The Jewish lady on the other hand was trembling after seeing the Leica trademark. She was just like a Korean lady.

About 20 minutes later, a very nice-looking young lady came to join the Jewish lady. She was her daughter. The mother told me she is a graduate of Princeton. She then went to the Harvard Law School. But she is now working for a movie company writing cinema scripts. The mother told me she had to put all of her resources for her children's education. I told her she is exactly like Koreans. I told her I have a son, who got his PhD degree from Harvard after undergraduate study at Princeton. To Jews and Koreans, there are no other ways.

To me, it was like meeting a Korean lady. We exchanged our telephone numbers and promised to meet again. Her husband knows some of my friends.

I will soon complete my story of Rhee Seungman. Sometime ago, I promised to talk about Jewish people and their history. I hope I could fulfill this promise. Does this sound OK to you?


Kim Chang-Yong's climb to power

Y.S.Kim (2006.5.28)

Until 1950, Kim Chnag-Yong gained his reputation for his skill to detect communist activities. After destroying the organization of Non-Ro-Dang, he needed another kind of communists to keep his job going.

While the Korean government was in Busan from 1951-53, there were indeed communists saboteurs and spies working for North Korea. In September of 1951, there was a huge explosion at the ammunition depot in Haewoon-Dae (east of Busan). Americans used to ship tons and tons of ammunition for their troops as well as Korean units, and unload them at the Haewoon-Dae depot. When the explosion started, I was at the to of Busan's Song-Do Mountain and was able to see the initial explosion. Then explosions and explosions. They continued for two days. Indeed, it was a major set back for Americans.

Since then, Americans started setting up anti-aircraft guns around the city to protect their ammunition and petroleum storage places. Koreans beefed up their counter intelligence activities. Kim Chang-Yong became in charge of this new operation. He mobilized the entire investigative resources to capture those communist saboteurs, but he could not. He then got an idea that those communists came from Japan and ran away to Japan immediately after the explosion. Through Japan! This was indeed a new route for North Koreans to send their agents to the South.

As said in my early articles, I used to find out secrets in Rhee Seungman's inner circles by listing to news broadcasts from Pyongyang. This was a clear evidence that there was a very sophisticated spy network in the Korean government. While I was only a high-school student then, Korean counter-intelligent people should have been more professional than I was.

Indeed, Kim Chang-Yong scored a major point there. There was a well- respected reporter named Chung Kook-Eun. He was influential enough to drink with every government official except the president. Until recently, one's prominence was measured by his/her freedom to travel abroad. At that time, it was unthinkable for Koreans to travel to Japan. However, Chung Kook-Eun was able to go to Japan whenever he wanted.

Kim Chang-Yong decided to look at Chung and found enough evidence to prove that he transferred government secrets to Korean communists in Japan working for North Korean authorities. Chung Kook-Eun was shot to death in February of 1954. After Chung's execution, Kim became the guardian of Rhee's presidency. He became powerful and became reckless toward his colleagues in the Korean Army.

In January of 1954, Pyongyang Radio started broadcasting Japanese language programs aimed at Koreans in Japan as well as Japanese communists. I knew this because I had a short-wave radio. Indeed, Pyongyang's love call produced a concrete result. In 1959, a large number of Koreans in Japan volunteered to go to North Korea, their heaven. This was a very serious set back to Rhee's government in Seoul. Rhee used to assert himself as the president of the entire peninsula, and most Koreans in the South supported his assertion, even though they were sick and tired of his rule. Rhee did everything to keep this from happening, but they went to the North on a North Korean ship called Man-Gyung-Dae, named after the birth place of Kim Il-Sung.

Korea had to face problems complicated problems more than arresting communists. The problems are becoming more complicated especially in the academic world. We live in the world where Korea's best can be the worst in the world.

Date: Sat, 27 May 2006 22:04:01 -0700
From: Elina Horvath
Subject: greetings from Canada
To: yskim@physics.umd.edu

Dear Mr. Kim,
For some reason I happened to find your web pages, and enjoyed reading your Wisdom of Korea writings. It is fate, I think--I teach ESL to Korean children, here in Canada. My previous contact with Korean people was extremely limited, but these past few months I have been getting to know my students, and learning a little about Korean culture. I have so much to learn. I wish I could visit Korea, but it's not possible. I chuckled when I read your articles about Hungarians.

I was born in Hungary, and came to Canada as a child in 1956. I have been telling my students that Hungarians and Koreans are closer than most people would dare to guess, and what do I find in your writing?? You mentioned that Hungarian and Korean DNA is similar. While this is the first time that I heard about the DNA similarity, I was focusing more on similarities such as the open, friendly, ebullience of the children's character, their love and knowledge of music, the forthright way the adults communicate, some similarities with food, etc. So really, I was seeing similarities in spirit, friendliness and warmth. Now that I know about the DNA, I will be delighted to share this with my students. I am amazed at how much you have travelled, how you have met so many people, and how you have such wide interests. That is great!

I have been doing a little research about Korea on the internet, however, I would like to find a really good book, a book that explains the history of Korea in an objective, well detailed manner. Perhaps, even a novel set in Korea, but with factual historical background.

Do you have any suggestions? Thank you for your very interesting web pages, and wisdom articles.

Elina Horvath
Squamish, BC, Canada


Plot to eliminate Kim Chang-Yong

Y.S.Kim (2006.6.6)

I am very happy to write this story in a hotel room in Sweden. These days, hotels provide free wireless internet service. Great!

After Kim Chang-Yong detected and executed Chung Kook-Eun, he got the reputation that he could get anyone regardless of his/her position or rank in by framimg him/her as a communist. There was even a rumor that Chung Kook-Eun was not a communist, but refused to pay dividends to Kim from his illegal smuggling activities.

Then army stars had to be nice to Kim in order to obtain additional stars. This did not sit well with the army's core people proud of their achievements in the battles they fought during the Korean War. They decided to eliminate Kim Chang-Yong. How?

While Kim did not fire a single shot in the front line, he was in charge of how many stars each general should carry. As I said before, the one-star general named Huh Tae-Young lost his star because of his conduct in front of the presidential residence. He became angry and told his intention to kill Kim Chang-Yong to the army chief, Chung Il-Kwon. Chung then gave this clue to Kang Moon-Bong.

Kang Moon-Bong had been the brain of the Korean Army during and after the Korean War. He was a quiet and scholarly man with a deep understanding of military history. I spent one evening with him in 1962 and learned many things from him. One of my questions was why Soviet ex-prisoners fought so bravely and patriotically during the Stalingrad operation during World War II. There were no reasons for those prisoners to be patriotic. Kang tapped my left shoulder with his right hand, and told me they were given given things here (army ranks).

While Ridgeway and other Korean generals disagree, Kang maintained that he was able to weaken the strength of North Korean thrust to Daegu by diverting to two N.K. army divisions to the Honam area. Kang used to claim that was the reason why Daegu was saved, and Korea was saved.

Kang never admitted he was directly involved in Kim's assassination, he said Kim Chang-Yong was a cancer to the Korean Army. After hearing from Chung Il-Kwon about Huh's intention, Kang and other army people started a concrete plan to eliminate Kim Chang-Yong. I was easy to gun him down, but the question was how to cover up themselves.

In order to do this, they had to frame someone else. They chose Lt.Gen. Won Yong-Duk. As I said before, he was a medical doctor and never fought in the Korean War. He moved up to his prominence by helping Rhee Seungman's in political affairs. He was also disliked by the army's core people. In a way, Won was a rival to Kim Chang-Yong's rival for Rhee's favor.

Thus, the plot included the plan to frame Won Yong-Duk as the assassin. In this way, the army could get rid of the two persons they hated most. On one morning in January of 1956, Huh Tae-Young's troops were waiting one block away from Kim Chang Ryong's house. While Kim was walking to his office, they gunned him down by delivering six shots from their 45-caliber pistols and ran away in their jeep.

While driving away, their jeep ran over a duck on the street. I will tell you more about this historical duck in my future stories.


Lt.Gen. Won Yong-Duk

Y.S.Kim (2006.6.15)

I came to France after spending four nights in Berlin (Germany). I am going back to Maryland on June 17. While in Berlin, I met some Koreans on their way to Frankfurt to cheer up the Korean football team. After noting my accent, they asked me which province of Korea I came from. I said I talk like Kim Koo. I then asked them whether they knew where he came from. One of them told me his maternal grandfather worked closely with Kim Koo in Shanghai. I then asked him what the grandfather's name was. To my surprise, he was talking about one of my relatives.

He was about 9 steps away from me, but he came to my house so often that he was "Shanghai Uncle" to me. He was an officer in Kwangbok Goon, but he joined the Korean Army shortly after he came back to Korea 1946. He did a very good job in putting down the Yeosu-Soonchun communist revolt in 1948. He got along well in the Army dominated by the Manchu faction. After retirement in 1953, he served as a military training officer (a very prestigious position at that time) at Yonsei University using my uncle's background.

Whenever he came to my house, he used to say that the Korean Army does not work because of Won Yong-Duk. As I said before, Won was a physician in the Manchu army, and headed the 8th Regiment during the initial stage of the Army, but he was a very incompetent commander because of his lack of basic military profession. My Shanghai Uncle was not the only one who disliked Won Yong-Duk. Park Chung-Hee disliked him, and the entire army core disliked him.

Yet, he was a Yangban-gentleman. Rhee Seungman liked him. Thus, the army killed Kim Chang-Yong and framed Won Yong-Duk as the assassin in order to get rid of both. Immediately after the assassination of Kim, the army investigation was building up the case against Won.

Won of course knew this, and knew also that the only person who could rescue him from this conspiracy was Rhee. He then studied the Korean history carefully, and picked up the style of the letters Korean ministers used to write to the king in similar circumstances. He then wrote a letter to Rhee. Rhee was indeed moved, and he ordered the army to come up with a physical evidence.

The army investigation got a witness telling that the gun men's jeep ran over a duck. Then they ordered one of their men to implant duck's feather on the tires of one of the jeeps belonging to Won's body guards. However, this man could not obtain a duck in Seoul and put chicken's feather on the tires.

The army investigators then confiscated the tires from Won's jeeps. They indeed found feather from them, and presented as a convincing evidence. Won was smart enough to question whether the feather was from the dead duck. Eventually, the army court had to invite zoology experts from the United States to determine whether the feather was from a duck or some other bird. The army failed to prove the case against Won.

These days, there is Korean joke called "Oribal" (presenting duck's feet after eating up a chicken). You can now guess where this joke came from.


Trial of the Kim Chang-Yong case

Y.S.Kim (2006.6.21)

After the comedic end of the initial investigation of the Kim Chang-Yong case, the responsibility of finding those who plotted the assassination went to the investigative team which had been organized by Kim Chang-Yong when he was alive and very active. They started with those who might have personal grudges against Kim and easily located Huh Tae-Young. Huh's star was taken away by Kim.

The trial was very simple. The death sentence to Huh and his two gunmen. During the trial, Huh never admitted there were higher-ups in the army who conspired with him. However, after the sentence, Huh's wife, in a desperate attempt to save her husband's life, started telling everybody there were important army people behind him.

The investigation continued, and Lt.Gen. Kang Moon-Bong was found to be the man behind the whole thing. In the court, Kang never admitted his involvement, but he said Kim Chang-Yong was a cancer to the Korean Army. All together, the army court sentenced to death five high-ranking army officers, including Huh and Kang.

However, Kang's sentence was reduced to life-imprisonment in consideration of his contribution during the Korean War. He was released shortly after the 4.19 student revolution in 1960. Kang spent two years in the United States studying at George Washington University. While he was in prison, he wrote a book about his own life, which was later published. I read his book, and this is the reason why I know the Kim Chang-Yong story in so detail.

Kim Chang-Yong was a major (two-star) general when he was killed but was promoted posthumously to a lieutenant general (three stars). He was buried in at the Dong-Jak-Dong National Cemetery. His grave cite is controversial these days.

After Kim's death, Rhee Seungman became more vicious to those attempting to become the president and to take over his power. In his later years, he indeed behaved like King Herod. Herod was the Israeli king when Jesus was born. After hearing that a new king was born, he ordered all new-born babies be killed.


Kim Sung-Ju

Y.S.Kim (2006.6.24)

Kim Sung-Ju used to be a very common Korean name. Koreans stopped giving this name to their babies after 1945 because of North Korea's Kim Il-Sung whose real name was Kim Sung-Ju.

After 1946, there was another Kim Sung-Ju giving eloquent radio speeches toward the North, accusing Kim Il-Sung and his followers of communist traitors selling the country to the Soviet Union. He was one of the 38 refugees who had to come to the South because he did not like what was happening there. I used to like his speeches because he was saying what I wanted to say.

After 1950, when the KBS headquarters moved to Busan, he continued giving speeches, but of entirely different nature. He was telling farmers to improve their agricultural techniques. I was wondering why. I then heard from reliable sources that he was shot to death in an underground bunker of one of those who were in charge of guarding Rhee's presidency. I know this guardian's name, but choose not to mention it. It was not Kim Chang-Yong, because this happened after his death.

Why was he killed? The answer seems to be very simple. He was naive enough to follow Cho Bong-Am's example. Anti-colonial sentiment used to very strong among Koreans when Korea was under Japanese rule. Park Hun-Young was able to organize this sentiment to a political force. Unfortunately, he had to use communism to achieve his purpose. Park's organization was thoroughly eliminated by Kim Chang-Yong, and by Kim Il-Sung's faction of communists when the North Korean army came down to the South in 1950.

Even though the organization was removed, the anti-colonial sentiment persisted and even grew stronger under the American influence. It was a challenge for politicians to use this sentiment to rise to the power. It was Cho Bong-Am who attempted to set up his organization by preaching a left-wing ideology. Cho perished because he did not have American backing.

Let us go back to Kim Sung-Ju. Nobody could accuse him of being a pro-communist because of his the radio speeches he made. But, he wanted to be a popular figure among Korean farmers, consisting that time of the 80 percent of the entire Korean population.

I do not know exactly how he was arrested and was executed without any judicial procedure. I could however guess that there were rivalries among those who came from the North, seeking favors from Rhee Seungman. Those 38 refugees provided a crucial political base for Rhee. The Korean Army for example. One of Kim's rivals could have told Rhee that Kim was following Cho Bong-Am's example to take over the government. I think I know who this rival was, but choose not to mention his hame. Kim Sung-Ju was not prominent enough to be mentioned by Korean newspapers or to be monitored by the U.S. Embassy.

Rhee Seungman started his political career as an anti-colonialist. He was anti-Japanese throughout his life. Rhee's tragedy is that he had to eliminate those anti-colonial nationalists after coming back to Korea in 1945. Perhaps he knew it, but he also knew that the United States was his most important political base.


Rhee adopts a son

Y.S.Kim (2006.7.3)

Rhee Seungman was married before he got jailed in 1898. His wife was totally devoted to him. With her, Rhee had a son, but he died while Rhee was in the United States. Rhee's original wife was alive when he came back to Korea in 1945 with Francesca Donner born in Austria. Rhee met Francesca in 1933 while attending a League of Nations meeting in Geneva, and he married her in the United States in 1934. Many people criticize Rhee for many different reasons, but they do not seem to be too harsh on this unusual personal life, presumably because the United States was so far away from Korea at that time.

Rhee's first wife died while he was the president. I do not know whether she died before of after the Korean War. In either case, Rhee wept after hearing about her death. Dr. Yim Young-Shin was in charge of taking care of affairs concerning Rhee's first wife. Dr. Yim was a Rhee's a close female colleague while they were in the United States. She served as the minister of commerce and industry in Rhee's first cabinet. Dr. Yim was also a very effective president of Choong-Ang University.

While Rhee was the president, there were no Koreans he could trust. Everybody around him was interested in taking away his power. He was indeed a lonely person. He really needed a person who could serve as a pet to him if not a political ally. While looking for a young boy, he noticed the head of his Chayoo Dang had two sons. The party head was Rhee's long-time associate. His name was Lee Ki-Boong. This man was very polite and humble, but was not capable of doing politics. Lee was not a political threat to him.

Lee Ki-Boong had one daughter and two sons. His daughter was as old as I was, but she died right before the Korean War. His elder son, named Kang-Suk, was two years younger than I was in the same high school. He used to like me. He had to because my high-school principal contantly praised me. Kang-Suk had a younger brother named Kang-Wook also in the same high school. I will talk more about them later.

Rhee was interested in adopting Kang Suk, Lee Ki-Boong's elder son. As you know, the Yi's Chosun dynasty was set up by General Yi Sung-Ge, but the country was shaped his son named Bang-Won. Bang-Won became the third king called Tae-Jong. Tae-Jong had three sons. The third son was exceptionally bright and became our King Sejong the Great. What happed to his two elder brothers? Tae-Jong's eldest son called Yang-Ryoung was a play boy and quite fond of stealing mistresses of high-ranking Yangbans. The second son, called Hyo-Ryoung, was a quiet person without much talent.

Rhee knew that he himself was a descendent of Yang-Ryoung, the eldest. He found out Lee Ki-Boong and his sons were descendents of Hyo-Ryoung, the second son. Thus, Rhee asked Lee to donate his eldest son to him. Lee Ki-Boong did not like the idea, but he could not say No to Rhee. Lee Kang-Suk became Rhee's adopted son in 1956 right before his high- school graduation. This was a tragic event for this innocent young boy. I will continue the story next time.


Lee Kang-Suk

Y.S.Kim (2006.7.10)

When Lee Kang-Suk became an adopted son of Rhee Seungman, he was in his graduating high-school class. His class was a superclass. There were 400 boys, and about 200 of them went to SNU, and about 100 went to Yonsei. Can you imagine these numbers? The top man of his class went to Yonsei.

Kang-Suk was not outstanding, but was an average student. He could have gone to SNU if he had worked hard. Yonsei was a very safe place for him. Indeed, his younger brother went to Yonsei two years later.

Even though Rhee needed a son-like young man near him, he would not have prevented his adopted son from pursuing university education. His decision not to go to university was thoroughly dictated by his mother known as Park Maria. She was very a power-hungry woman, and it is generally agreed that she ruined her husband, her sons, as well as herself.

Her husband, Lee Ki-Boong, was a very polite gentleman. He was known as a human-like human being. This means that he was utterly incompetent in politics. He was the boss of Chayoo Dang only because of his wife, Park Maria, and because of his personal loyalty to Rhee.

Because of his mother, Kang-Suk did not go to college. Park Maria's intention was to let him spend every second of his time with Rhee. She had an illusion that her husband, Lee Ki-Boong, and her son, Kang-Suk, would take over the country after Rhee.

Kang-Suk became an army officer without going to military training. He then took care of protocol matters in the presidential mansion. However, he was not competent enough to provide meaningful services to the presidential office.

He was a second lieutenant not knowing anything about the army. His job was to accompany Rhee whenever Rhee had to visit military units. He became frustrated and decided to go through a training course. The army then cooked up a program which included a parachute training. In order to get this training, he came to the United States in 1958. I was in Pittsburgh then and could not see him, but he met his Korean friends in New York and Washington. Most of his friends were also my friends.

They all said Kang-Suk became thoroughly stupid. All he knew was an excitement from speedy car driving or jumping from the airplane. As a politician, his qualification was absolutely zero. Yet, Kang-Suk was complaining about his adopted father. His adopted mother, Madam Francesca, used to give him money for buying things, but she had absolutely no idea about how much things costed. His said his adopted father was about the same.

Though not brilliant, Kang-Suk was a decent boy as I knew during his high-school period. However, he was being ruined while serving as Rhee's adopted son. I will talk next time about what lessons we can learn from Lee Kang-Suk's case.


Lessons from the Lee Kang-Suk case

Y.S.Kim (2006.7.12)

As I said before, Lee Kang-Suk was not a bad boy when he was in his high school. He did not go to college because his mother thought being close to the president is more important than college education. Everybody would agree that it is a very bad judgment. As a consequence, Kang-Suk grew negatively.

He was very careful in what he was saying while in Korea, but he had freedom to speak out while visiting the United States. He spoke freely. He said right things and wrong things. In either case, he sounded very stupid to his friends. Everybody agreed that he grew negatively.

Here, we cannot laugh at Kang-Suk. This happens to most of our Korean graduate students in the United States. The purpose of graduate education is build up the capacity to do research: to produce new knowledge. Instead, their purpose seems to be to become closer to big shots, as Lee Kang-Suk did.

As for the research, it is not easy to produce new knowledge. It is also highly competitive. In other words, it requires total dedication and personal sacrifice. I think I am in a position to say this. There are many who like me, and there are perhaps more than many who dislike me. Yet, they all concede that I am totally dedicated to my research program. I still love to say things strange (new) to others. I can tell you more about myself, but let me stop here.

It is so difficult to find Korean young men or women dedicated to true research. They are only interested in becoming closer to famous Americans and to those powerful politicians in Korea. They like to use whatever they do to climb up the social ladder. They are not they are not interested in what research is. I have to confess that I am not capable of changing this unfortunate aspect of Korea's intellectual culture. Research-wise, our graduate students are growing negatively.

Let us go back to Lee Kang-Suk. On April 24 (1960), five days after the 4.19 incident, Kang-Suk fired his 45-caliber pistol at his father, mother, his brother, and finally to himself. In so doing, he cleaned up all bad reputations built around his family. Nobody blames Lee Ki-Boong these days for the mistakes he made and he might have made.

On the other hand, many people were and still are debating whether Lee Kang-Suk really fired the gun. First of all, was he physically strong enough to fire the 45-cal. pistol (with powerful recoil)? Then, was he able to make the correct judgment of the situation at that time? The answer, particularly to the second question, is No. This is also my answer.

Then, did Rhee Seungman order his troops to sacrifice Lee Ki-Boong's family to save his throne? The answer to this question is "highly improbable," in view of the fact that Madam Francesca used to send flowers to Kang-Suk's grave.

However, it is probable that Rhee's bodyguard, named Kwak Young-Joo, shot them out of his loyalty to Rhee, and in order to save his job. This theory still persists, but people are not interested in these days.


Lee de Forest

Y. S. Kim (2006.7.22)

Do you know that I was once a student at SNU's Department of Electrical Engineering? Yet, I still believe that SNU should be closed down. I always become annoyed whenever I do business with SNU people. For instance, the person who submitted the above job announcement did not even include a submission letter or greetings. Does he/she think I am a machine?

I chose Electrical Engineering because I was crazy about electronics while in high school. I am still interested in this subject. I own six computers for various purposes. I still like to talk about electronics. As you know, I maintain a webpage containing my stories toward the world. You may visit http://ysfine.com/robot and click on "Interesting Stories" to see what is going on. There are two stories exclusively about the development of electronic industry in the United States. One of them deals with the person named Lee de Forest.

It was known before 1900 that electrons flow from heated cathode to anode in a vacuum tube. Lee de Forest placed a grid around the cathode and noted that the grid voltage can regulate the current flowing from the anode (plus) to cathode (minus). This was the beginning of electronics, and this discovery changed the world.

de Forest was born six years before and died six years after Einstein. We say very often Einstein changed this world. But, who changed the world more profoundly? Einstein's principle of relativity or de Forest's invention of the vacuum tube?

While we can debate about this question, a interesting question is their research styles. I mentioned many times before that Einstein's philosophical base was Kantianism, and my wepage on this point is becoming popular among colleagues around the world. Among the many pages in my website, my "friends" (woman) page is by far most popular. Then the next most popular page is my Einstein page.

I became interested in philosophical bases for those important people after reading what Karl Marx said on the wall of Humboldt University in Berlin. The Marx plate was installed by communist authorities while East Berlin was under Soviet domination from 1945 to 1990. Marx says there that, while philosophers write down their opinions, there must be someone else who should change the world.

German communist authorities presented Marx as the philosopher and Vladimir Lenin as the person who changed the world. They did not turn our to be right, but what Marx said had a strong point. As I mentioned repeatedly before, Marx was correct if Immanuel Kant was the philosopher and Einstein changed the world.

The question then is this. If Thomas Edison and Lee de Forest changed the world this much, who was their philosopher? I have been worrying about this ever since I saw the Marx plate in Berlin (1998). I am very happy with what I said about Kant and Einstein. Then, really, who was the philosopher behind those two great American inventors?

Yes! I know the answer. While Confucianism acts as the super- constitution of Korea, America's super constitution is the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament. I said this many times before. Read Chapter Seven of the Matthew. Edison's philosophy is there. If you visit the cover of my wisdom page (http://ysfine.com/wisdom), the key verses are given in Korean. We can thus complete the following table.

On this marble plate at the entrance of Humboldt University (Berlin), Karl Marx says "Die Philosophen haben die Welt nur verschieden interpretiert; es kommt aber darauf an, sie zu veraendern."
In English -- Philosophers interpret this world in various ways. There comes the question of changing the world.
Philosopher Change the World Marx was
Marx Lenin Wrong
Gospel of Matthew Edison, de Forest Right
Kant Einstein Right

How does this Americanism work in you? Very simple. You like to become famous by writing papers, but you do not have ideas. What can you do? Here is the answer. Start writing papers if you do not have ideas. You will then get the ideas. This is how I still write my papers. How do you write your papers?

It is not uncommon for Koreans to ask me whether I believe in Jesus when I meet them the first time. I know how Koreans believe in Jesus: to believe in his/own way. Everybody else believes in the wrong way. Since I am a Korean, I can also tell you how to believe in Jesus. In my way, as I told you above!


Who is your philosopher?

Y.S.Kim (2006.7.27)

I mentioned in my earlier articles Karl Marx as Lenin's philosopher, Kant as Einstein's philosopher, and the Gospel of Matthew as the philosophy book for Edison. One of the readers asked me who my own philosopher is. It is not clear whether I am big enough to name my own philosopher. On the other hand, everybody deserves to have his/her philosopher. Indeed, this happens in the form of religion.

Religion is OK, but we need a specialist in order to compete in the professional world. If you believe in Jesus, it is OK, but Jesus is not enough. You need someone else to rely upon. This person could be your father or mother. It is better if that person is closer to you.

Let us go back to the question of my own philosopher. I seem to have many philosophers. I learned many things from my parents. I also learned things from my grandfather. After I became separated from him when I crossed the 38th parallel to the South in 1946, my uncle acted as my grandfather. He was 15 years older than my father. He was very famous, but he was thoroughly against getting involved in politics. This is the reason why I have so much contempt to those Gamtuists. If I am forced to point out my most valuable philosopher in my professional world, I have to mention King Seeing. As you know, he had the idea that the ruler should communicate with his own people. In addition, Korean scholars at his time had enough technological resources to construct the Korean characters which we are so proud of.

How does this work in my professional activities? I firmly believe research papers should be written in mathematics understandable to everybody. For this reason, my colleagues complain that I know only harmonic oscillators and/or two-by-two matrices. Their complaints are justified. Pick up one of my papers. It is filled with oscillators and/or two-by-two matrices. Sometimes, I talk about three-by-three or four-by-four matrices. In those cases, I only talk about diagonal or diagonalizable matrices.

When they complain, I offer no apologies to them. I write my papers in that way because they should be understandable to everybody. Furthermore, all physical theories should be formulated in terms of two coupled oscillators (combination of oscillators and two-by-two matrices) since otherwise physical theories are not soluble. I do not know how useful those non-soluble theories are.

As for the question of two-by-two matrices, do you know to how to diagonalize them? Yes, it is straightforward to get their eigenvalue problems by solving quadratic equations. On the other hand, do you know how to construct matrices which will similarity-transform those into diagonal matrices? You are lying if you say Yes,

These days, I am quite excited about this question because I solved this problem recently, after one year's research. This means that I now know how to construct a similarity transformation which will diagonalize a given two-by-two matrix. The next question is what problems I can solve with this new technology. This will keep me busy.

I was able to do this because I have a good philosopher, namely King Sejong. You will also become happier with your work if you are able to identify your own philosopher.


Wisdom of Korea (2006, August -- December)


Korean Army strengthens its infrastructure.

Y.S.Kim (2006.8.4)

During the early 1960s, I used to hang around young Korean army officers who came to Fort Belvoir (near Washington) to study electronics. At that time, the Korean army was totally run by Americans. Those officers used to complain that Americans are spending too much money for building military hospitals and health care systems instead of tanks and rockets. If the soldiers are sick, we can cure them by "kihap," they said.

Their complaints were quite consistent with what I knew about the U.S. army. It is a formidable medical unit. As many of you know, Korea's oldest medical center called Severance Hospital was located in front of Seoul's central railroad station before 1950. This hospital was built by American missionaries. The hospital moved to Yonsei's Shinchon campus after the Korean war.

Do you know who gave the seed money for building this new medical complex? You will be surprised to hear that it was the U.S. Army. On the "Korean Background" section of my webpage reachable from http://ysfine.com/style, you will see a photo of my uncle signing a document with General Lyman Lemnitzer, then the commander of the U.S. Forces in Korea.

The U.S. Army had and still has superb weapons systems. In addition, it is very strong in many supporting areas. Traditionally, it is a strong engineering unit. These days, it became also strong culinary unit. American soldiers in Iraq were given meals which are available only in first-class restaurants in America or Europe. I once asked those solders from Iraq whether they were given Chinese food there. They said Yes, but complained that the Army still needs good Japanese Sushi makers.

The point is that it is not trivial to run an army. It requires skilful management. Americans gave needed weapons and unwanted hospitals to the Korean Army, but the most valuable gift was its management skills. It is not enough to shout orders or give kihap to run the army. While complaining about what Americans give and what Americans do not give, Korean army officers learned how to manage things, and strengthened the infrastructure of their organization.

This secret of management made the army so strong that Park Chung-Hee was able to take over the government in 1961, and run the country for 18 years. During this period, the army management skills formed the foundation for Korea's industrial expansion.


As Rhee becomes old

Y.S.Kim (2006.8.10)

As Rhee Seungman was becoming old and losing control of himself especially after his third inauguration in 1956, Koreans were making preparations for post-Rhee era. From the political point of view, there were the following four groups.

  1. Rhee's Chayoo Dang
  2. Opposition party called Minju Dang
  3. Underground leftist/nationalist group
  4. Korean Army

During the Rhee era, Rhee's name and prestige maintained the unity of country, but his lack of management skills led to corruptions and mismanagements. The country was bankrupt and isolated from the rest of the world, and was completely under the control of the United States.

Among the four groups listed above, Rhee's Chayoo Dang was desperate to find some wisdom for its own future. They did not want to lose their jobs after Rhee's departure. Yes, they were worried about their party being separated from the population. They drew up a plan to embrace in influential Koreans. They tried professors, clergy men, and other people with names including gangster bosses. They did not have to approach those with money because they were in control of the financial system of the country. This is precisely the reason why the party was separated from the people.

However, all intelligent Koreans knew that Chayoo Dang would disappear with Rhee. They stayed away from this "evil" party, and only gangster bosses offered their cooperation to Chayoo Dang. They were inspired by Kim Doo-Hwan's election to the National Assembly in 1954. Since I left Korea in 1954, I cannot name all of those gangsters, except two most notorious ones. One was Ihm Hwa-Soo. He never went to school and never learned how to read, even Hangeul. Yet he was interested in becoming the minister of education, and the party leadership had to entertain his vanity to exploit his work and dedication.

Another prominent gangster boss was Lee Chung-Jae. He was smart. While working hard for Chayoo Dang, he brought some juicy projects to his hometown not far from Seoul. Thanks to him, his hometown enjoyed paved roads, new bridges, and new buildings. In that way, he was interested in getting elected to the National Assembly. He was all set to get elected. But, the disaster came.

In 1958, the party boss Lee Ki-Boong was in danger in his own voting district in Seoul's Seodaemoon area. Chayoo Dang could not arrange vote-rigging in this sensitive area, and Lee had to run from some other place. Lee Ki-Boong apparently had his family origin in Lee Chung-Jae's district. The party therefore had to take away from Chung-Jae the area for which he had work so hard. To him, it was like losing his own life.

Chung-Jae was totally disillusions with politics. After the 1958 election, he was offered one of the provincial governor's positions. But he declined and lived in Daegu separated from Seoul's political world. After Park Chung-Hee took over the government in 1961, he was sentenced to death and executed for his gangster activities in earlier years. It is generally agreed that those military people used Lee Chung-Jae as a scapegoat.

Do you want to do politics?


These days in the United States

Y.S.Kim (2006.8.16)

You might be interested in what is going on in the United States these days. There are many immigrants especially from Latin America. I go to McDonald's very often. When I go there, I choose to speak Spanish. If I go to hardware stores, most of the house repair materials have labels written in Spanish.

Those Latinos provide high-quality manual labors. Most of the cooks in Korean restaurants are also from South or Central America. They work hard, and they work skilfully to settle down and move up in the tightly organized society in the United States.

How about other minorities? The other day, I had a lunch at one of up-scale restaurants near my house. I went there around 2:00 PM. By the time I finished my lunch, the restaurant was empty, and the manager came to my table and started talking to me. He asked me where I came from and what I am doing these days. After hearing my story, he told me he started as the lowest-paid waiter for the restaurant, but he now owns the place. He did not have money, but bought his restaurant with hard work. This is a story about the American minority.

Then, how about Koreans in the United States? Very well. They also work hard and become rich. They send their children to universities without worrying too much about their entrance exams. Those Korean immigrants cannot get integrated into American society. Thus they are very active in Korean communities. They become very active as the officials in their churches. They buy big and expensive houses and hold parties among Koreans and their relatives. They live happily.

So, what is the point. The problem is with Korean academic and research people. They do not appear to be moving up. What is the reason? This is not a new question. Many Koreans have been and still are asking this question. In fact, I had to respond to this question to one of Korean sociologists yesterday. I gave him the following answer.

Koreans, if educated, lose the ability to learn new things. This is the basic difference from Americans. In order to emphasize the continuation of learning process, Americans call graduation ceremony "commencement" meaning beginning. Educated Koreans have absolutely zero ability to learn things from fellow Koreans, while there are so many things to learn from those humble Koreans with big houses. There are also lessons to learn from old-timers like myself, but this never happens.

Let me summarize. Korea's fundamental values are the same as those for Americans. For Koreans, it should be much easier to pick up those fundamental values from Korean than from Americans. This is precisely the reason why Korean academic people do not do well in the United States.


Election of 1958

Y.S.Kim (2006.9.1)

In 1958, Korea had to go through another National Assembly election. The ruling party, Chayoo Dang, had completely lost contact with the people. The only way to remain in power was to fix the election systematically. Indeed they did. They even obtained a 2/3 majority to change the constitution again. They removed the term limit for Rhee, the first president. As for the position of the vice president, my memory may not be accurate because I was in the United States at that time making preparations for graduate school. The amendment also included the role of the vice president. The VP was to become the president once the president becomes incapacitated. It was not the case in previous versions of the constitution.

If this was true, who becomes the vice president in the 1960 presidential election becomes mighty important, because Rhee's end was nearing. Thus, Chayoo Dang's strategy was to concentrate on the position of the VP for the 1960 presidential election. Lee Ki-Boong, the party boss, knew that he himself was not fit to lead the country, but his wife, commonly known as Park Maria, thought she could run the country. She forced her ailing husband to run for the VP position in 1960 election.

In the meantime, there were some young faces in the Assembly. One of them was Kim Young-Sam from Chayoo Dang. He was about 30 years old, but was telling openly about his presidential ambition. This angered the Chayoo Dang leadership. Because he was not a faithful member of his party, he was able to survive long after Chayoo Dang collapsed in 1960.

In spite of the whole-sale election fraud, the opposition party, called Minju Dang, maintained a credible number of seats in the Assembly. They included the standard politicians such as Cho Byung-Ok, Yoon Bo-Sun, Kim Do-Yeon, and other celebrities in Korean politics. Lee Chul-Seung was one of the young men in the Assembly.

In 1946, Lee was a student at Korea University and led a series of anit-Shintak demonstrations. On March 1, 1947, I participated in his demo. I had to run away from a bullet shower from the communist headquarters near Namde-Moon. Hard to imagine! Indeed, Lee was a rare anit-communist among the student leaders at that time.

Another young politician with presidential ambition was Kim Dae-Jung. He had worked closely with Cho Bong-Am. Because Cho was regarded as a leftist, he was carefully hiding his background. In spite of this liability, Kim was able to obtain a support from the United States and was able to get Korea's first Nobel prize.

I like him, even though I avoid contact with him while he was in Washington for two years. From the humanitarian point of view, I have one complaint. While he was the president with Nobel prize, he had enough power and prestige to commute or reduce the death sentence given to Cho Bong-Am, his mentor. He did not! This is my complaint even though Cho's ideology (or color) is different from mine.

These three young men came into one party during the Park Chung- Hee era (1961-79) and maintained their feuds.


Chang Myun

Y.S.Kim (2006.9.16)

As Rhee became older, a number of Korean politicians were making preparations for becoming the president. I mentioned three young people in my previous article. Two of them eventually made it. But, they were too young to be considered during Rhee's time.

Among the established politicians, I mentioned Park Maria in my earlier articles. Her plan was to use her husband and her son as the front persons. Her husband was Lee Ki-Boong who was the boss of the corrupt government party called Chayoo Dang. Her son, Kang-Suk, was Rhee's adopted son.

Other presidential hopefuls were all in the opposition party called Minju Dang. The most prominent party leaders were Chang Myun and Cho Byung-Ok. Cho became prominent in 1945 when Americans asked him to organize the Korean police system. I talked about him in my earlier articles, and I will talk more about him in the future.

Chang Myun was an English teacher in a Catholic-oriented high school before 1945. He became prominent in 1948 when Rhee appointed him as the ambassador to the United States. He was in Washington when the Korean War broke out in 1950. He worked hard to bring American troops to Korea even though the decision was made solely by Harry Truman, then the president of the United States.

In 1953, Chang was called back by Rhee to become the prime minister, but he became disgusted with Rhee after seeing so many wrong doings by Chayoo Dang. He then joined the opposition party led by Shin Ik-Hee and Cho Byung-Ok. He ran for the vice president in 1956 while Shin was the candidate for the president from Minju Dang. Shin died during the campaign, but Chang won and became the vice president.

Chang Myun was known to have a strong Catholic background. He also had a number of brothers. Two of them were quite prominent. One of them was Chang Bal. He was an artist and once served as the dean of SNU's College of Art. The other was and still is Chang Keuk. He is a world-famous mechanical engineer and had been on the faculty of the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC.

How did they become devoted Catholics? Here is an interesting story. Their grandfather was one of the early Catholic believers. Because of this, he received a death sentence and was executed on the sand beach of the Han River. You all saw the execution scenes from TV dramas. Before cutting off the head of the convict, a number of sword men perform a ritual dance while swinging their swords.

When Koreans executed one person, they also eliminated other family members. There was apparently one small son untouched. After seeing the execution scene, this small boy ran to the commander of the sword team, and asked him to kill him also. The commander then became passionate toward him and asked him to come to his house. While living and studying in the commander's house, he studied English diligently. This boy eventually became an interpreter in Korean-American trades and became quite rich. He sent all of his sons to the United States. Chang Myun was one of them. Chang Myun knew how to speak English and how to speak to Americans, in his family tradition.

I heard this story from Prof. Um Chung-In of Korea University in 2004. He also arranged a dinner with Prof. Chang Keuk (Chang Myun's brother) at a Korean restaurant near the University of Maryland. I met Prof. Chang in 1975. At that time, you had to be somebody to travel to the Soviet Union. He told me about Koreans in Uzkekistan and Kazakkstan who were forced by Stalin to go there from the Vladivostok area. This was a big news to me, and I talked about it in one of my articles in 1978. I emphasized how strong and enduring Koreans are. But the Korean Physical Society refused to publish my article. Naturally, I still have a very low opinion of KPS.


Park Chung-Hee

Y.S.Kim (2006.9.24)

There was another person preparing himself for the president after Rhee. He was a relatively young army officer, named Park Chung-Hee. I talked about him many times in my earlier articles. Let me summarize. He started his military career as a second lieutenant in Japanese army stationed in Manchu. Many people accuse him for his pro-Japanese activities, but I am not able to judge how pro-Japanese he was.

As you know, he was a very assertive person. For this reason, he did not get along with his Japanese comrades. He was once severely beaten by them, and was treated by an army physician of Korean origin named Won Yong-Duk. Won was a graduate of Severance Union Medical College (now Yonsei Medical School). I talked about him in detail in connection with the Kim Chang-Yong case in my earlier articles. I do not know whether Won ever shot a rifle, but he was totally ignorant about military affairs.

During the initial stage of the Korean army, Won was the commander of the 8th regiment covering Kangwon Province. As you know, the 38th parallel goes through Hwanghae and Kangwon Provinces. The 8th Regiment therefore had a very important military mission. As a gratitude to the person who treated him in Manchu, Park joined Won's 8th Regiment and worked hard on military plans to counter possible invasion from the North.

Here again, Park Chung-Hee was assertive, and Won once told him "You must be from a Sangnom family." Park was thoroughly turned off and asked the army to be transferred to a different unit. There he joined a group of communists. He was involved in the Yeo-Su army revolt in October of 1948. Park was arrested and received a death sentence, but he received a pardon by surrendering the list of the communists in the army. Indeed, he played a pivotal role in saving the Korean army from communist takeover.

In recognition of his contribution, he was given a civilian job in the army intelligence agency headed by Colonel Chang Do-Young. The question was which side Park should take when the North Korean army occupied Seoul three days on June 29, 1950. From the communists' point of view, Park was their worst traitor. He had to come to the South. Indeed, he did with important intelligent documents. His boss, Chang Do-Young, was impressed. Chang worked hard to restore Park's rank of major.

But Americans would not assign front line duties to him because of his communist background. The only way for him to get combat duty was to become an artillery officer. In that way, he learned how to use slide rules. The slide rule was a hand-held calculator widely used until 1970 when electronic calculator became widely available. The device was invented by a team of French artillery officers. I do not have to explain why those artillery people had to calculate things fast.

This ingenious device consists of two bars. You can do additions easily with two scaled bars. It the scales of those bars are logarithmic, you can do multiplications easily. Unlike ordinary politicians, Park Chung-Hee understood how to deal with numbers, especially exponential functions. While firing guns, Park was preparing himself for an important management position.

Let us talk more about him next time.


Park Chung-Hee and Lee Jong-Chan

Y.S.Kim (2006.9.27)

The army is always an important element in immature democracy. In 1952, Rhee Seungman wanted to use the Korean army to shut down the National Assembly. But Lt.Gen Lee Jong-Chan, then the army chief of staff, did not obey Rhee's order. I said this in my earlier article, but will say again tonight. While refusing to obey the presidential order, Lee made Rhee very angry, but Lee kept the army out of politics. Rhee did not know that Lee Jong-Chan was the military man most loyal to him. Rhee dismissed Lee and sent him to Chinhae as the head of the army college which did not exist at that time.

During the Rhee era, all the high-ranking army officers hand their military trainings while serving in the Japanese army. They were quite familiar with Japan's 2.26 incident in 1936. In 1936, a group of young Japanese officers staged a armed revolt against their elected government. Their attempt failed after three days, but the senior officers took advantage of this incident to take over the power, and eventually led the country into a war against the United States. Japan had to surrender unconditionally after the nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. Japan was totally destroyed.

To the Korean army leaders, this 2.26 incident served as an example of military men ruining the country. This is the reason why most of them were against doing politics while in service. Gen. Lee Jong-Chan was the prime case in point. He was a brave man!

Park Chung-Hee had a different understanding of the 2.26 incident. He became firmly convinced that Korea had to be run by military men. Park even worked out a concrete strategy to carry out a military take-over, based on the 2.26 incident. For instance, he became deeply impressed with the use of electronic communication by those revolting Japanese officers. By taking over Tokyo's radio broadcasting station, they controlled the information flow, and quickly took over the power without resistance from the government.

Japan opened its first radio broadcasting station in 1925, and by 1936 most of Tokyo citizens were able to listen to radio news. If you are old enough to be around in 1961, you will recall the KBS special broadcast in the morning of May 16.

In spite of his meticulous plan, Park lacked a statue to lead the army during the Rhee era. He need someone bigger to lead the army for his cause. He approached Lee Jong-Chan several times. He thought Lee did not obey Rhee's order because he disliked Rhee. Park went to Chinhae several times to persuade Lee to lead the army revolt which he designed. But he did not know that Lee disobeyed Rhee not because he did not like Rhee, but because of his belief. Lee's conviction was that military people should keep out of politics in view of Japan's 2.26 incident.

It is interesting to note that Lee Jong-Chan and Park Chung-Hee had two opposite views of Japan's 2.26 incident. Yet, Park maintained his respect for Lee Jong-Chan while he was running the country from 1961 to 1979. Park was quite different toward Won Yong-Duk. Because Won was very nice to Park while they were in Manchu, he expected a Gamtu from Park, such as the ambassadorship to Japan or Taiwan. Park never offered anything because Won once called him "Sangnom." Won was waiting for Park's call even on his death bed. Politics is a funny business.


Who else wanted to become the president?

Y.S.Kim (2006.10.16)

In my previous mails, I mentioned several names who wanted to become the president and were making preparations for that job. I mentioned those who made it. There were of course many who did not reach that position. It is not worth mentioning them all, but there were some important people.

One of them was Cho Byung-Ok. I talked about him many times in my earlier articles. He worked closely with his colleagues in the opposition party, and became the presidential candidate in 1960. He ran against Rhee Seungman, but died at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC (U.S.A.) two months before the 3.15 election.

There was another person who wanted to become the president. His name was Chang Joon-Ha. He was the editor of the celebrated monthly magazine called "Sasang-Ge." He did an exceptional job of collecting Korea's intellectual resources at that time. He received the prestigious Magsaisai Freedom Prize from the Philippines in 1960. His base was the group of those who studied in Japan before 1943 but were drafted to the Japanese army. This group of Koreans was called the "Hak-Byung Chool-Shin." As I said in my earlier articles, I had a special relation with this group of people.

Chang also had a support from those Koreans who came from Shinuiju (now in North Korea). This city is located at the Korea-China border on the southern bank of the Amrok River. We see the photos of this city often in newspapers these days. From 1890, this city served as a harbor for early Korean Christians, and later produced many highly educated people. The most influential person from Shinuiju was Rev. Han Kyung-Jik who used to be the most prominent Presbyterian minister in Korea.

Yet, Chang lacked a political base in the South. Like me, he was a nationalist. Also like me, he did not have much talent in compromising with evils. Unlike me, he did not, nor did he want to understand the United States. Like many Koreans, he thought Park Chung-Hee was an evil man and maintained a bitter feud with him until he died. He died in a mountain-climbing accident in 1975. It is generally agreed that his accident was caused by Park Chung-Hee's agents.

What is the point of mentioning all those people? Rhee Seungman is bitterly criticized for not rearing a credible successor to him. This criticism is not valid. In order to be a successor to someone, you should not wait for a call from him. It is your responsibility to build yourself. During the Rhee era, there were enough Koreans who were making preparations for the job. Rhee did not like anyone with presidential intentions, but allowed enough freedom for them to have their dreams.

The democracy in Korea was not achieved overnight. Vladimir Lenin of Russia wanted to change Russia and the world in his own way. He said once that he could change the world, but he could not change the people. Because he could not change the people, he could not change the world. The same can be said about China's Mao Zhedong. Korea's Rhee perhaps knew that he could not change the Korean people, and never attempted to change even himself.

If there is to be a change in the people, it is necessarily an evolutionary process. The direction of evolution depends on the environment. We have been under the influence of the United States. Whether good or bad, Korea's evolutionary process was toward the United States. This was the Korea envisioned by Rhee Seungman. In this way, Rhee sold the country to Americans, if I borrow the language of young Koreans.


Back from Kiev

Y.S.Kim (2006.11.2)

I came back from Kiev after spending a week there. I went there to give a talk at a conference. I had been to Ukraine twice before, but I went to Kharkov, which is their science/industry center. Lev Landau used to work in Kharkov, and T-34 tanks were developed and produced there during the Soviet era. In June of 1950, some of those T-34 tanks came to Seoul three days after crossing the 38th parallel.

Kiev is Ukraine's political and cultural capital. There are many churches and other historical sites in Kiev. Ukrainians hold political demonstrations there often. I went to their Independence Square to participate in one of those demos, but they were having an exciting rock concert.

Kiev is also an international city, and there are many Russians. Many of them were wearing T shirts carrying old Soviet signs, such as the Hammer and Sickle logos and CCCP (Union of Soviet Socialist Republic), but Ukrainians seem to be tolerant to them. They are like Japanese visitors in Korea wearing Dai-Nippon-Dei-Koku (Great Japanese Empire which includes the Korean peninsula).

To Ukrainians, both Bush and Putin are devils. They also thumb down their own president and prime minister. To them, Kim Jong-Il is the greatest guy in the world. They said Fidel Castro used to be their hero, but he became too old. Among other prominent Korean names are Samsung and LG. They know Samsung is a Korean company, but they think LG is a Japanese organization. LG should do something to correct their image.

I met a man from Samsung there. I asked him whether he came to sell LCD monitors for computers and TVs. He said No. He studied mechanical engineering at Inha University. I then asked whether he came to sell compressors. He said Yes. I became very happy. As you know, I often brag about my engineering instinct. I am very strong in my electronics background, but it was mechanical this time. I was very proud of myself.

We talked about compressors. Unlike electrical gadgets compressor- air equipments can deliver forces, torques, and impulses without being overloaded. Until 1965, Seoul's electric trolley cars were equipped with compressed-air brakes. It was George Westinghouse to develop air brake systems for trains.

Indeed, compressed air is the basic element for all remote control systems in industrial factories. In Korea, compressors are manufactured by small and medium-sized companies. However, super- heavy-duty compressors are made by giant companies like Samsung. All factory compressors in Ukraine were equipped during the Soviet era, and they are becoming worn out. Samsung is interested in replacing all those compressors in Ukraine.

Sounds great! Right? Koreans are talented and able to see what the world needs. I could be much happier if we could be this talented in the research world. As you probably know, I have been and still am marketing my own research products. I went to Kiev precisely for this purpose. Marketing is difficult and also challenging.


Another group of people who wanted to run the country

Y.S.Kim (2006.11.15)

In 1951, Gen. Matthew Ridgeway, then the commander of the 8th Army, told Rhee Seungman that the Korean army's fundamental problem is its total lack of professionalism. Rhee accepted his criticism and asked Ridgeway to solve the problem. As a consequence, the United States decided to construct a military academy modeled after their own at West Point.

Ridgeway's comment appeared to be contradictory at that time because American soldiers run away easily, while Koreans fight bravely. But he had a point. Korea's defense minister was Shin Sung-Mo who used to be a purser for a British merchant ship. Because of his total lack of military background, he created many comedies and tragedies in the Korean army.

How about Korean generals and high-ranking officers? Most of them were educated at the Manchu military school, two-year truncated college for Koreans to become officers for the Manchu army. Japanese authorities thought Koreans, although inferior to Japanese, were superior to Chinese in Manchu. There are many things army officers should know. One of them is how to lead their soldiers. The most difficult thing is how to lead them while they retreat. The Manchu military school did not teach how to retreat.

The Japanese military academy in Tokyo was an elite school respected by all Asians. It was a four-year college, but became a three-year school during the war time. A small number of super-genius Koreans were admitted to this school. Dr. Cho Byung-Ha, the first president of KAIST, was a student at this school when the war ended in 1945. The problem of this school was that its curriculum did not include the subjects concerning army logistics (integrated supply and support). It took many years for the Korean army to absorb the concept of logistics.

The only way to cure this problem was to start from Zero. In 1952, the Korea Military Academy was set up in Chinhae, but it came to Seoul shortly after the cease-fire in 1953. It was a four-year college and was supposed to be an exact copy of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point near New York City. It produced the first graduating class in 1956. Quite understandably, those graduates were quite proud of themselves. They thought they had a God-given mission to save the country.

Even though they started as second lieutenants in the existing army, they were wearing gold rings in their fingers to bragg about their special status. They we called "Banji" withing the army. Yes, they were righteous. They eliminated petty corruptions in the army. They also refrained from beating up soldiers. Yes, they were always right. As a consequence, they formed a political group within the army.

After gaining political ambitions, they had to transform themselves into bad boys. A quite natural process! You can guess who those bad boys were. They took over the country after Park Chung-Hee died in 1979, and ran the country until 1991. Kim Young-Sam claims that his most important contribution during his presidency was to eliminate political groups in the army.

Rhee Seungman's Korea was by no means a fully democratic country. Yet Rhee allowed enough people, young and old, to cultivate their presidential ambitions. If you have an ambition to become a president or to get a Nobel, start early. The environment will never be perfect for you. It could even be extremely hostile to you. You have to face these problems, and, in one way or another you have to manage them. You will get nowhere if you keep complaining.


New Year's eve in Vienna

Y.S.Kim (2006.11.20)

I am planning to spend the final week of this year in Vienna (Austria). Hotel prices during this period become doubled. It is because many music lovers spend the New Year's Eve in Vienna. There are naturally many Koreans, and I will be one of them. Koreans are music-crazy people.

In my case, it is much worse. I am illiterate in music. I cannot make sense out of music notes. To me, they look like bean sprouts spread over five horizontal lines. But I enjoy talking about music and am looking forward to meeting some famous musicians in Vienna.

Western music was first introduced to Korea by Lady Sontag form Russia around 1885. She had a German name, but it was and still is not unusual for Russians to have German names. Madam Sontag opened a Western-style social club just west of the Deok-Soo Palace in Seoul. It was a gathering place for Korean upper-class men. They used to enjoy Western music performed by Russian singers and instrumentalists.

I can tell many interesting stories about how Korean picked up Western music since then, but let us skip and go directly to 1950. Before 1945, many Koreans had studied music in Japan including at the Ueno Music College in Tokyo. By 1950, Korea had a very strong community centered around the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra. However, this music community was about to face a total destruction during the War. However, the Korean Navy hired the Orchestra and allowed those musicians to continue their musical activities. What does the Navy have to do with music? The story here could also be very long, but let me skip.

From 1951 to 1953, the city of Busan was the entire Korea. This was a very music-intensive period for Koreans. Music was one way to find consolations from the war-time hardship. Concerts after concerts. I could not attend all of them, but enough to become a music-crazy Korean.

There was a young vocalist named Lee Chung-Hee. She used to make us very happy by singing an Italian song entitled "In Vaccio" (the Kiss). Koreans do not kiss, and kissing was an obscene act at that time. Police used to arrest those who kiss on the street. People did not know her song was obscene because she sang in Italian. Lee Cung-Hee later studied at Julliard and became a professor at SNU. Korean singers do very well on world stages these days.

During the Busan period, Koreans musicians obtained electronic devices. Before 1950, Korean recording system was primitive. They had to play 78-rpm disks for music. For instance, it required three disks to play Beethoven's Symphony No. 6 (Pastoral). Americans came to Korea with long-playing 33-rpm recording system with electronic amplifiers. Furthermore, some privileged Koreans were able to get tape-recorders smuggled out from American military bases.

I do not have to explain why tape recorders are important in music training. Indeed, the music education started picking up the speed during this Busan period.

I did not become a musician, but I had a privilege musicians did not have. I had a short-wave radio and was able to listen to the world. I was intensely interested in music in Japan. At that time, Japan was far ahead of Korea in almost all fields including music.

In order to build a country, you need a king or president, and a constitution. In addition, you need an educational system, army, and all that. Don't forget that you also need culture. Koreans have been very diligent along this direction. Unlike our academic people, those musicians did their job without complaining. Perhaps they were successful because they did not know how to complain.

Next time, I hope I could talk about Korean popular songs.


Ueno and Hyun In

Y.S.Kim (2006.12.1)

After the Bolshevik revolution, many upper-class Russians fled their country. Most of them went to European countries, but many went to Japan. Among them were many talented musicians. Japanese were very quick in picking up musical skills from those Russians. For instance, their first world-class violinist named Suwa Nejiko was trained by a Russian teacher. I mentioned her in of my web articles. I said there I once tape-recorded her music in 1953. Yesterday, I received an e-mail from someone with three photos of old microphones asking me which microphone Ms. Suwa used when I recorded her music. A very difficult question!

The Japanese musical community was centered around an elite music school called "Ueno." Ueno Music School was widely admired by Koreans, and many Koreans studied there. Indeed, most of the senior Korean musicians in 1945 were Ueno graduates. There was one young Ueno graduate, named Hyun In. His name is very familiar to us through his songs entitled "Shilla ye Dalbam" and "Bessame Muccio." Yes, he was trained as a classical musician, but he knew that he could be more creative by developing Korean songs.

Japanese used to and still produce their many popular songs, and Korean songs were influenced by those Japanese songs. But Hyun In realized that Koreans are not Japanese. He did his own research on Indian songs and Latin American songs. It is known that his songs had a very strong Indian influence. His "Bessame Muccio" is a very traditional Mexican song. Roh Tae-Woo, who was the president of Korea from 1988-93, was a student during the Korean War period. He learned the Bessame Muccio from Hyun's singing. Roh made Mexican very happy by singing his Bessame Muccio in Korean while visiting Mexico as the president.

Unlike Japanese, Koreans were able to develop their own popular songs while accommodating foreign flavors. In the 1970s, Korean songs had a Greek influence. Greeks enjoy their sad songs by their lower-class people. Koreans used to like sad songs in the past. It is remarkable that Koreans could pick up Greek flavors even though Greece is far away from Korea.

These days, Koreans are making bold attempts to export their songs to the United States, as well as to other Asian countries. Good! Around 1960, there were three female singers. They were Lee Mija, Patti Kim, and Han Myung-Sook. Han used to sing "Noran Shirt ..." This song was picked up by Koreans in Manchu through KBS's international broadcasting progrem beamed toward the North. This was how those Koreans started admiring their compatriots in the South. Before that, the only Korea known to them was Kim Il-Sung's North.

Korean songs seem to have a bright future from the world-wide point of view. Unfortunately, there still is one field hopelessly behind. You should know what field I am talking about.


Stagnant Economy

Y.S.Kim (2006.12.6}

Junichiro Koizumi was Japan's prime minister from 2001 to 2006. He offended Koreans whenever he worshipped at Yasukuni Shrine. But he was one of the best prime ministers Japan had since 1945, because he solved the most difficult domestic problem.

In order to encourage their citizens to save money, the Japanese authorities encouraged their school children to open savings accounts at their post offices. Because people continue their childhood habits to their adulthood, Japan's postal system used to be one of the largest savings banks in the world. If a man brings a salary check to his home, his wife would go to the closest post office to deposit the money. She would earn an interest rate of about 3 or 4 percent/year. After the wife accumulates enough money, she makes sightseeing trips to Europe and America. This is not the best way to use the nation's wealth.

When I was a child under Japanese occupation, I had a savings account at my post office. I do not know how much I had in my account, but I never got the money back. I heard that France is introducing their postal savings system these days. I do not understand why, while Japan is abolishing.

Koizumi realized that a large chunk of money was held within the postal system could not function as useful capitals for development of new enterprises and for innovation of the existing industry. This postal money would only benefit politicians in the ruling party. This is the reason why Koizumi had a strong opposition from the colleagues from his own ruling party when he attempted to abolish the postal savings system. He had to hold an election to carry out his program, risking his prime minister position. Japan's capitals are now free to flow.

Japan has a huge foreign currency surplus, while the United Sates is deeply indebted. Yet, it is said that the U.S. economy is strongest in the world. How does this logic work? The answer is the healthy flow of money. The U.S. has the cleanest and healthiest money flow system in the world. The money circulation is like blood circulation in a human body.

It took Japanese politicians 60 years (since 1945) to realize this. Korea was hopelessly behind in 1950. It is not clear these days whether Japan is ahead of Korea in understanding this aspect of economy. How could Korea pick up this wisdom?


Korea's capital from farmland

Y.S.Kim (2006.12.15)

These days, Korea's democracy is respected and admired throughout the world. As we all know, Koreans had to go through fifty painful years to develop the political system acceptable to them. However, it is generally agreed that this could not have possible without economic development. Neither politics nor economics follows written rules.

Where and how did this economic development start? In terms of modern industry, Korea had nothing in 1945. There were some factories and hydro-electric generators in the North, but the division of the country made the South a purely agricultural country. Indeed, 80% of all Koreans were farmers. Thus, the only source of Korea's seed money was in the farmlands, more specifically among the landlords.

It was Cho Bong-Am (the first minister of agriculture in Rhee's cabinet) who was interested in unlocking the capitals held by those land-owners. At that time, it was political necessity to give the nation's farmlands to farmers. In order to achieve these two goals at the same time, he wrote the farm-reform bill. According to this law, the government would buy lands from the landlords give the lands to farmers. Did the government have enough money to buy? The answer was clearly No. Thus, the government had to issue "I owe you" papers, namely the land bonds (called Jika Jeungkwon).

Since those bonds can be circulated, the land-owners could invest their economic resources to factories. The government could then collect taxes from the products produced by the factories to pay back the bonds. Makes sense! The only problem was that not many people knew how to run the industry at that time. To make things worse, the Korean War totally destroyed the country's economic structure. Since then, Korean government never produced policies which worked.

Yet, it is very safe to say that Korea's economic development started from the farmlands. Those farmland Koreans, whether rich or poor, saved their resources to send their children to colleges. Their heavy investment in education was starting point for Korea's economic development.

I will continue the story next time.


Korea's hidden talents

Y.S.Kim (2006.12.20)

According to Korea's traditional social structure, merchants used to belong to the lowest class. Thus, until recently, there was a tendency for talented students to stay away from "commerce colleges," and the society did not have much respect for those students who plan to become merchants.

However, those commerce students developed their skills in their own way. They know how to negotiate. Let us talk about SNU graduates. It is not possible to talk with them, especially for me. However, there is an exception. The Commerce College graduates are different, and I enjoy talking with them. They are fun-loving Koreans. I understand that the Commerce College is now reorganized into two different colleges.

There is another important skill they developed. It is well known to the world that SNU graduates cannot speak English. This is true even for professional diplomats. Here again, there is an exception. The Commerce College graduate can communicate well in English.

During the last year of Kim Young-Sam's presidency, the Korean government became bankrupt and had to borrow a huge amount of money from IMF. At that time, the finance minister was Kang Kyung-Shik. He is a graduate of SNU's Law College, and could not speak English. He was not able to negotiate directly with IMF officials. Kang was then replaced by Lim Chang-Yul. Lim was a Commerce College graduate and was able to negotiate with those foreign lenders.

Yes, during the war years (1950-53), college students did not attend their classes too diligently. It was especially so for those Commerce students. However, they ganged up to form English-speaking clubs to enjoy good life. I do not know whether they did because they had a vision for future or because they wanted have fun. In either case, Korea's commerce professionals develop enough language skills when Korea had to engage its economic clutch to the world economy dominated by the United States.

Then, when did Korea reach the stage to connect its economy to the world system? Let us talk about this next time.