Park Chung Hee (pärk chŭng hē) [key], 1917–79, president (1963–79) of the Republic of Korea (South Korea). Starting (1940) his military career in the Japanese army, he joined the new South Korean army after the establishment of Korean independence at the end of World War II and rose through the ranks. In 1961 he was a member of the military junta that overthrew the civilian government. He became chairman of the junta government and in 1963 was elected president. He was reelected in 1967 and again in 1971, having amended (1969) the constitution to allow himself a third successive term. Although his government aided economic progress by emphasizing export-oriented growth, it became more dictatorial over the years. In 1972, Park declared martial law, allegedly to institute revitalizing reforms, and again altered the constitution to give himself almost unlimited power. Despite demands for democratic government, censorship, political repression, and torture of political prisoners increased. In Aug., 1974, Park's wife was killed during one of the several assassination attempts against him. Park was killed in 1979 by the head of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.