South Korean Dictator Dies, Western Media Resurrects a Myth. By K. J. Noh

Hampton Think.

Chun Doo Hwan with Ronald Reagan, 1981

General Chun Doo Hwan was the corrupt military dictator that ruled Korea from 1979-1988, before handing off the presidency to his co-conspirator General Roh Tae Woo. Chun took power in a coup in 1979, and during his presidency he perpetrated the largest massacre of Korean civilians since the Korean war. He died on November 23rd, in pampered, sybaritic luxury, impenitent and arrogant to the very last breath.

Many western media outlets have written censorious, chest-beating accounts of his despotic governance and the massacres he perpetrated (hereherehere, and here)– something they rarely bothered to do when he was actively perpetrating them in broad daylight before their eyes.  Like the light from a distant galaxy–or some strange journalistic time capsule–only after death, decades later, do “human rights violations” in South Korea burst out of radio silence and become newsworthy.

Better late than never, better faint than silent, better partial than absent, one could argue.  Still all of them miss out on key facts, spread lies through omission.  A key dimension of Korean history and politics looks to be buried with his death. A little background history is necessary to elucidate this.

The Sorrows of the Emperor-Dictator

Park Chung Hee as Japanese Military Officer

Chun’s predecessor and patron, the aging South Korean dictator Park Chung Hee, had ruled the country as an absolute totalitarian despot for 18 years, but he knew in his bones that his days were numbered. He had survived two violent assassination attempts, mass civil protests, and even opprobrium from his American puppet masters, despite serving them loyally by sending 320,000 South Korean troops to Vietnam. Even Park’s closest advisors were worried about the fragility of his rule.

Park Chung Hee had been a former Japanese military collaborator during Japan’s colonization of Korea. A US-installed puppet Syngman Rhee had smashed socialism in the South through genocide–a method later to be replicated in Indonesia’s “Jakarta method”.

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