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South Korea's Yook Young-soo


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Former U.S. First Lady Jackie Kennedy was widely admired in the United States during most of her lifetime, especially when she was President Kennedy's wife.

South Korea had its own version of Mrs. Kennedy when Park Chung Hee (朴正熙) was president, Yook Young-soo. As the late president's wife, she was widely admired and beloved by many in Korea for her humble manner and for not being afraid to express opposing viewpoints with her husband, who ruled Korea with an ironfist during the 1960's and 70's.

Unfortunately Yook Young-soo was killed when a North Korean assassin tried to gun down President Park at the National Theater in Seoul in 1974. Four shots were fired at the president as he and his cabinet members were on stage. As everyone ducked for cover, one of the four shots accidentally struck Yook as she lay seated in her chair.

President Park was reported to have been saddened by his wife's death. He was gunned down himself five years later. South Koreans today carry a nostalgia for the late couple. In a recent poll, 76% of South Koreans consider the late president the country's best and most effective leader. Even Kim Dae Jung credits Park for making South Korea one of the "Four Economic Tigers" of Asia. Ironically Kim was once arrested in Japan on Park's order, and was just about to be thrown overboard at sea with his hands tied and head covered, when a US plane deliberately made a low pass over the ship he was on.

The current nostalgia in Korea for Yook Young-soo and Park is even helping their daughter Park Geun-Hye's presidential prospects in 2007.

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