Date of Award

Winter 12-1-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Jonathan Dresner

Second Advisor

Paul W. Zagorski

Third Advisor

John L. S. Daley


Park Chung-Hee is a divisive figure. For some he is a saint that rescued his country from the brink of collapse and helped it rise into modernity. For others he is a devil, an iron-fisted dictator who cared more about his own power than his people. Both of these are politically slanted myths promoted as part of a corresponding political agenda. But even politically neutral writings on Park unwittingly conduct a mythmaking of their own. This paper is an attempt to show that Park Chung-Hee has become a mythological figure in Korean history because the scope of his power, agency and historical relevance is vastly overstated in the conventional narrative. Often historical analyses and narratives focus on Park Chung-Hee to the virtual exclusion of all other contemporary and relevant agents. By examining various primary sources, this paper attempts to highlight where arguments about Park’s historical agency, often presented with certainty, are in fact far from clear and absolute facts. This paper argues that, at least early on in his time in power, Park Chung-Hee as a historical agent could be much less important than we imagine, and that there were several other actors of note who wielded significant power at the same time.



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