84. Intelligence Note Prepared in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research1


Republic of Korea: Park Girds for Election Battle

In preparation for what he must now expect to be a rough campaign prior to the presidential election in the spring of 1971, President Park has brought Yi Hu-rak back into his inner circle as head of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and appears to be seeking to bring Kim Chong P’il back into active politics on his team. At the same time Park has attempted to improve his administration’s image through new Blue House appointments and by replacing Prime Minister Chong Il-Kwon, whose name was linked with a murder–sex scandal earlier this year.

Yi Hu-rak to CIA. Yi Hu-rak, the highly effective but scandal-ridden and unscrupulous former Blue House Secretary General, will return from an eleven-month sojourn as Ambassador to Japan to replace CIA Director Kim Kye-won, who is in Park’s bad graces. Park expects the CIA to play a key role in his election campaign this year and has been dissatisfied with Kim. The latter was not only unable to arrange the nomination of the opposition candidate Park wanted to run against, but even failed to predict the nominee correctly.

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Yi is extremely competent and reputedly one of the few persons willing to confront the President with unpalatable truths. Although he was sent to Japan after extensive and well-documented corruption charges made his presence in the Blue House a political liability, Park appears to believe that the benefits of improved CIA operations and better advice during the elections are worth the political price he may have to pay.

Kim Chong-p’il to Party? It is rumored that Kim Chong-p’il was offered the Democratic Republican Party (DRP) vice presidency in order to bring him back to Park’s side for the rough election period ahead. Kim, however, may not accept the appointment since he is reputedly disappointed with the post he has been offered and the appointment given Yi Hu-rak, an old, bitter adversary.

A New Prime Minister. The one major shift in the cabinet was the appointment of Paek Tu-chin as Prime Minister replacing Chong Il-Kwon who reportedly plans to seek a National Assembly seat and has his eye on the speaker’s chair. Paek has been in and out of the government since 1945, serving under Syngman Rhee as Finance Minister and Prime Minister.

It is not clear why Park chose to replace Chong at this time. Chong’s alleged mistress was murdered earlier this year, and Park may have seen him as a liability; however, Paek has been linked with various financial scandals over the years and seems to be little improvement. In any case as a northerner and proportional representation member of the National Assembly, Paek does not have as strong a political base as Chong and will probably be more dependent on Park than Chong.

Blue House Changes. In an effort to add a fresh quality to his administration, Park on December 9 appointed eight new special assistants, over half of whom are under 50 and have no previous governmental experience. The new men are to look at long-range policy interests. Although they will find it difficult to contend with Park’s proclivity to concentrate on programs rather than long-range policies, their impressive credentials and the new office will reflect favorably on Park between now and the 1971 elections.

Outlook a Dirty Campaign. Park obviously expects Yi Hu-rak and the CIA to play a major role in his campaign strategy; however, his efforts to improve his image and strengthen his team are not wholly consistent. If forced to choose, Park would rather have tough infighters at his side than look clean and progressive to the voters. Judging from his appointments, Park expects a long and dirty campaign.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 15–1 KOR S. Secret; No Foreign Dissem; Controlled Dissem. Drafted by Joseph E. Lake (INR/REA) and approved by Evelyn S. Colbert (INR/REA).