" Corruption, anarchy, absurdity, recession, hopeless--this was the situation at the time of the May 16 coup. The coup was absolutely crucial in order to fight through these circumstances and to revolutionize the society to an enlightenment."
- Park Chung Hee, 1979
5.16 Military coup of Park Chung-hee
The military coup of Korea broke out at 12 midnight on May 16, 1961. About 3,300 armed military men, who were led by Park Chung-hee, Kim Jong-Pil, Kim Dong Ha, Kim Jae Chum, Lee Joo Il, Kim Hyung Uk, and other, joined force, plotted, participated, and mobilized the coup.
However, in the midst of this dangerous moment, Park Chung-hee made a speech to persuade the government forces to cooperate with the entire plot. He convinced them that the present government has done worse than the former liberal government as it pushed the country off the cliff with corruption and incompetence, and therefore he had no other choice. The government forces not only allowed the leader of the coup to make the speech, but was actually persuaded by Park’s words. The government forces became psychologically submissive to the coup forces and is said to have been deeply moved by the speech.
The core group formulated four guiding principles for the coup:
- The goal is to liberate people from political corruption and economic poverty through a “maximum-effect dose of medicine”- revolution, recognizing the reality that the country had lost the momentum to reform peacefully the military establishment.
- The revolutionists shall risk their lives to achieve “great righteousness.”
- The task of organizing the revolutionary organ shall proceed in top secrecy.
- The decision to undertake the coup is based on an objective analysis of the nation’s reality and the people’s hopes.
According to the “5.16 History of the Military Revolution” and as listed above, the first pledge of the military government was to “solve the financial difficulties of the people who are under great despair and starvation and put all effort to establish a self-supporting economy.”