Kim Jong-pil, Political Kingmaker in South Korea, Dies at 92

Kim Jong-pil, Political Kingmaker in South Korea, Dies at 92

Mr. Kim, who had married a niece of Mr. Park’s, was deeply involved in both the planning of the coup and the management of the dictatorship, which lasted 18 years. Mr. Kim was the founding director of the infamous Korean Central Intelligence Agency, which buttressed Mr. Park’s rule through arbitrary arrests and the torture of dissidents.

Under Mr. Park, Mr. Kim also left an indelible mark on South Korean foreign affairs.

He helped broker a deal in 1965 that established diplomatic ties between South Korea and Japan, which had ruled Korea as a colony for decades until Tokyo’s defeat in World War II. As part of that agreement, Mr. Kim helped secure free grants and cheap loans from Japan. Mr. Park’s regime used the money to build factories and highways, laying the groundwork for South Korea’s rapid evolution from war-torn agrarian country to export powerhouse.

But the deal with Japan fueled enormous protests in South Korea, where many complained that Tokyo had not offered a clear apology or sufficient reparations for brutalities committed during the colonial period — an issue that still haunts the two countries’ relations.

Mr. Kim was a pragmatist about such matters. He once said that a group of small islands claimed by both South Korea and Japan should be blown up with dynamite to end the territorial dispute, calling them useless rocks covered with “nothing but sea gull droppings.”

He was unapologetic to the end about the deal with Japan. “Even if I was vilified as a national traitor, I was convinced that it was the best way for my country,” he said years later. “We needed the money to establish factories and learn technologies and build the economy.”

After Mr. Park was assassinated in 1979 — by Kim Jae-gyu, a disgruntled successor to Mr. Kim as head of the spy agency — another army general, Chun Doo-hwan, took power. Seeing Mr. Kim as a potential rival, Mr. Chun had him detained and his vast personal assets seized. Mr. Kim was barred from politics, as were the other two Kims, both of whom were high-profile figures in the opposition.

After a period of exile in the United States, Kim Jong-pil returned to South Korean politics in the late 1980s, as military rule was nearing its end amid huge street demonstrations. All three Kims ran for president in 1987, splitting the opposition vote against Mr. Chun’s handpicked successor, Roh Tae-woo, a former general. Mr. Roh won the election; Kim Jong-pil received just 8.1 percent of the vote.

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