After surviving several previous attempts, including two operations associated with North Korea, Park was assassinated on 26 October 1979 by his close friend Kim Jae-gyu, the director of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency, at a safe house in Seoul. Cha Ji-chul, chief of the Presidential Security Service, was also fatally shot by Kim. Kim and his many accomplices were captured, tortured, tried, convicted and executed as Choi Kyu-hah became Acting President pursuant to the Yushin Constitution's Article 48. Major General Chun Doo-hwan quickly amassed sweeping powers after his Defense Security Command was charged with investigating the unexpected assassination, first taking control of the military and the KCIA before installing another military junta and finally assuming the presidency in 1980. It remains unclear today whether the assassination was spontaneous or premeditated and the motivations of Kim Jae-gyu are still debated.
Economic growth continued even after Park's death and the country eventually democratized. Later presidents included people arrested under Park's regime. Park has been ranked by the public as the greatest South Korean president but he still remains a controversial figure in modern South Korean political discourse and among the South Korean populace in general for his dictatorship and undemocratic ways. While some credit him for sustaining the Miracle on the Han River, which reshaped and modernized South Korea, others criticize his authoritarian way of ruling the country (especially after 1971) and for prioritizing economic growth and contrived social order at the expense of civil liberties.
In 2012 the Park Chung-hee Presidential Library and Museum was opened. On 25 February 2013, his eldest daughter, Park Geun-hye, became the first female president of South Korea. She was impeached and removed from office on 10 March 2017 as a result of an influence-peddling scandal. On 6 April 2018, Park's daughter was sentenced to 24 years in prison for corruption.
Park with fellow students at Changchun Military Academy
Park was born on 14 November 1917, in Gumi, North Gyeongsang in Korea under Japanese rule, to parents Park Sung-bin and Bek Nam-eui. He was the youngest of five brothers and two sisters in a poor Yangban family. Extremely intelligent, egotistic and ambitious, Park's hero from his boyhood on was Napoleon, and he frequently expressed much disgust that he had to grow up in the poor and backward countryside of Korea, a place that was not suitable for someone like himself. Those who knew Park as a youth recalled that a recurring theme of his remarks was his wish to "escape" from the Korean countryside. As someone who had grown up under Japanese rule, Park often expressed his admiration for Japan's rapid modernization after the Meiji Restoration of 1867 and for Bushido ("the way of the warrior"), the Japanese warrior code.
As a youth, he won admission to a teaching school in Taegu and worked as a teacher in Mungyeong-eup after graduating with a teaching degree, but was reportedly a very mediocre student. Following the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War, the ambitious Park decided to enter the Changchun Military Academy of the Manchukuo Imperial Army, with help from Imperial Japanese Army Colonel Arikawa (a drill instructor at the teaching school in Daegu who was impressed by Park's military ambitions). During this time, he adopted the Japanese name Takagi Masao (高木正雄). He graduated top of his class in 1942 (receiving a gold watch from the Emperor Puyi himself) and was recognized as a talented officer by his Japanese instructors, who recommended him for further studies at the Imperial Japanese Army Academy in Japan.