It is widely known in Korea that President Park Chung- Hee (1917-1979) took very strong interest in attaining two major goals of his life: One was to free the Korean people from the shackles of abject poverty of 5,000 years and the other was to develop nuclear weapons for a self-reliant national defense.
President Park was born to a farming family which was synonym of poverty in Korea in the past as the farmers had always been the target of extortion and exploitation by the monarchs and their vassals as well as wealthy merchants. Following the liberation of Korea from the Japanese colonial rule of 36 years in 1945, the situation did not improve very much as they were continuously taken advantage of by the corrupt high officials of the government and the business tycoons, many of whom had close ties of corrupt conglutination and collaboration for personal gains and interests.
The first-term President Syngman Rhee was one of the prominent Korean independence fighters who worked for the Korean independence operating mostly in the United States. Following his inauguration in Korea as the first-term President of the Republic of Korea (ROK) in 1948, Rhee tried to run the country as he had learned democracy in the US, but he was advanced in age and this was taken advantage of by the corrupt politicians in the ruling camp (Liberal Party) and business tycoons. Love was lost between Rhee and the common people and at length students rose up in a revolution on April 19, 1960, which toppled the Liberal Party government of President Rhee. Rhee left Korean and lived in Hawaii in exile.
Korea was obviously not ready for a full democracy. The next government that came in the wake of Rhee’s fall led by Prime Minister John M. Chang (from the opposition Democratic Party), did not fare well either because of the people wanting to secure everything by hitting the street and demonstrating in demand for what they wanted.
North Korea had, as always, been looking for a chance to re-invade the South which the Communists had ruled for three months during the Korean War (1950-3). Concerned with this situation, the then Maj. Gen. Park Chung-Hee caused a military revolution (coup d’etat) and took over the control of the government on May 16, 1960.
This development of situation was not very pleasant to the US that wanted to see a democratic government in Korea. Naturally, the relationship between the US of the then President John F. Kennedy and the ROK of President Park Chung-Hee became strained.
By virtue of repeated Five-year Economic Development Plans and people’s self-improvement movements such as Saemaeul Undong (New Community Movement) under President Park, the Korean economy grew at a ‘miraculously’ rapid pace with the per-capita GNI (general national income) of the people jumping from mere US$67 (in 1960 when the coup occurred) to US$1,693 (in 1979 when President Park died), which represented more than a 25-fold increase in 19 years. Because of this, President Park enjoyed a very strong popularity among the Korean people although some young people had reservations due to the restriction of basic rights of the people, especially against the opposition politicians and unionized workers.
Park thus succeeded in attaining his first goal (eradication of poverty from the people and a self-supporting economy), but his second goal (a self-reliant national defense) was hard to achieve.
To make the matter worse, South Vietnam fell to North Vietnam and Viet Cong, and the US Forces withdrew from Vietnam altogether. This situation struck fear into the people in South Korea while it was a strong encouragement for the North Korean regime. There also was much talk about the US’ withdrawing of its armed forces also from Korea during the Democratic Party government of President Jimmy Carter who pursued a ‘human rights’ policy.
This is when and where President Park Chung-Hee stood up for a self-reliant national defense as he knew as well as the people in the South that they could not afford another Korean War and a Communist rule in the South.
Park wanted to independently develop nuclear weapons with the help of a noted Korean-born nuclear scientist named Dr. Benjamin W. Lee and after the task is completed Park wanted to retire from the government and the political arena for good?making the announcement on the Armed Forces Day on Oct. 1, 2003.
However, Park’s goal was not materialized as Dr. Lee died on June 16, 1977 at the age of 42 and Park himself died on Dec. 26, 1979 shot by his own intelligence organization chief, Director Kim Jae-Kyu of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency.
Concerning Park’s effort to secure a self-reliant national defense through development of nuclear weapons in cooperation with Dr. Lee, there are many stories.
One of them is a fiction novel authored by Novelist Kim Jin-Myung entitled “The Muguwanghwa Flowers Have Now Come Out!” where Kim appears to suspect that there might have been some connection between a US government organization and the deaths of President Park and Dr. Lee. A total of 4.5 million copies of the novel were sold and six million people are said to have had access to the story.
In the novel, the hero, Dr. Lee Yong-Hoo (widely seen alluded to noted Korean-born physicist in the US, Dr. Benjamin W. Lee), assists President Park Chung-Hee in the development of nuclear weapons, but they both die a mysterious death, the former by a traffic accident in the US and the latter by bullets fired by his own intelligence chief. Mugunghwa is the National Flower of Korea and is used as a symbol of national identity of the Korean people.
Excerpts from the novel follow:
'The Mugunghwa Flowers Have Now Come Out!'
Lee Yong-Hoo was born in Seoul in 1935, passed a state exam for qualification for general equivalency diploma (as some genius or highly talented young people do for fast advancement in schooling) when he was in the second year grade at the prestigious Kyunggi High School in Seoul, and won matriculation at Korea’s top-rate Seoul National University with the highest honor.
Lee then went over to the United States, entered the Physics Department of the Miami University, earned a master’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh, and a doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania. Then he became a fellow at the Princeton Research Institute at the age of 27 and became a top-ten physicist in the United States. At the age of 28, he became a regular professor at the New York State University and at the age of 30 he became a professor at Chicago University and director of the Fermilab at the University.
Lee visited Korea in 1974, formed a science research institute at the Seoul National University with an AID loan and in 1977 when the withdrawal of the US Armed Forces from the Republic of Korea became imminent Lee provided the President Park Chung-Hee with the theory of development of long-range guided missiles and nuclear weapons. In the same year, Lee died a mysterious death.
In 1962, Dr. Lee attended the International High Energy Conference representing the United States. He was one of the top ten scientists of the United States at the time. There was no other foreigner enjoying such a status in the US and it was a rare honor to qualify for the status as a Korean-born American. The International High Energy Conference was held in Italy for 45 days from July 15 and the Conference was literally led by the 10 nuclear physicists of the United States.
The Conference discussed as main topic the four papers which Dr. Lee published at the Princeton University Research Institute. Among over one hundred scientists attending the High Energy Conference, Dr. Lee was the youngest. At the Conference, Dr. Lee published his paper on the atomic theory, unit of the atomic particle, duration of life of the particle and its influence on other matters. He was accorded warm applause from the attendees at the Conference.
After the round of big hand, Dr. Lee told the Conference, “I am not yet an American citizen. I was born in a poor, divided country named Korea and I am a Korean student studying in the United States. I do not know when I will get an American citizenship but I wish to say that it is only a few world powers that make and use nuclear energy. We should try to give the benefits of nuclear energy technology also to the under-developed countries. We should discard the notion that nuclear energy should be used as a means of war. Thank you.”
All the participants at the meeting were deeply moved, and accorded Dr. Lee a standing ovation. The young Dr. Lee was the only participant at the Conference who won a standing ovation. This was widely reported also by the Korean media as well as local media in Italy and the other foreign news agencies.
At the examination for the doctor’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania, Lee won an average of 93 points while the runner-up examinee won an average of 71 points, which was an outstanding difference. It was the first record at the University of Pennsylvania since its foundation. The high score was also unprecedented in all the physics students in all the universities in the United States.
Dr. Frazer, a member of the Preston High Research Institute where the late Dr. Einstein used to work, came to Dr. Lee and told him: “Your achievement is the most outstanding of all the physics applicants for the doctor’s degree in the history of our Institute. We have also learned that your paper included the development of a new theory.?Dr. Frazer also told Lee, “What is the secret for a student from Korea to achieve such an outstanding result? You are very much needed at this Research Institute and it is a real honor to meet you. I warmly welcome you to our Institute. It is very fortunate that we have you in the United Sates.”
In January 1960, Dr. Lee entered the Freestone Research Institute as a regular fellow. His Doctoral Adviser Abraham Klein was very happy to have Lee as his member. It was the first time a 25-year-old man has become a regular fellow of the Freestone Research Institute.
For President Park Chung-Hee, Dr. Lee was a very much needed scientist for the nuclear development in the ROK. President Park sent a letter to Dr. Lee, which was to the following effect:
Dear Dr. Lee:
It has been over four years since I saw you last. I have been frequently hearing about you here in Korea. On my part, I have not had an easy mind hearing that you are opposed to the promulgation of the Yusin Revitalizing Reforms System that I have announced in Korea.
I will not stay forever as the President of the Republic of Korea. Whether I can leave as the President of Korea or must continue all depends on whether we can attain the goal of our self-reliant national defense.
The country is in confusion and national defense is weak. It is very difficult for me to leave the Presidency at this time when I am not sure when the country might again come under the control of the Communists.
As you, Dr. Lee, might be aware, withdrawal of the US forces from the ROK has already begun without any consultation with the Korean government. Some of the US missile units have already left and the 17,000 members of the ground forces have already begun pulling out of Korea. It comes as a sign that the United States might be thinking that the ROK, too, could become a Communist country like Vietnam. Soon, I suspect that the US would also pull out its nuclear unit from the ROK. It is only a matter of time.
I have asked and pleaded with the US government to reconsider the withdrawal of the US armed forces from Korea. However, it was no use.
I am ready to do anything no matter how shabby I may appear to them if only the US would stop withdrawing its troops from Korea.
However, as you might agree with me, the time has already passed when the Korean government could get anything from the US.
Continuous begging when there is no sign of response would only bring more damage to the prestige of Korea, which I hope I could avoid.
I have imagined that this situation could come one day and I am independently trying to develop guided missiles and nuclear weapons. As part of this program, I have invited Korean scientists in the United States to visit Korea and some of them to return to Korea for good.
However, I have not been able to do this to you, Dr. Lee, because I have been advised by my people that inviting you to Korea like the other Korean scientists would be considered my ‘declaration of war’ against the US.
I have been respecting you, Dr. Lee, for your ability and I am very proud to learn that you are a Korean. Korea is now in danger and the situation is very tense. My struggle with President Jimmy Carter of the United States has already begun and I am compelled to win our aim without being overly servile. This is because President Carter was using his particular ‘Moral Policy’ on us, which takes advantage of a servile person.
Now I am thinking that time has come for us to put an end to the Era of Reliance on Others. Time has come for us to independently to try develop guided missiles, nuclear weapons and satellites on our own so that no other country will look down upon us.
I need your help, Dr. Lee, in our effort to avoid another fratricidal Korean War, and prevent my people from being killed and wounded in another war.
Dr. Lee, please save your motherland from such a tragedy.
Maybe it was in 1974 when I first met you, Dr. Lee. I told you at that time that I would even mobilize all the 600,000 troops of the Republic of Korea if they are needed to protect you. This offer is still standing. I truly mean it. Whether the Korean people will live or die all depends on your decision.
I have secured the cooperation of the Korean scientists in the United States for the development of guided missiles and we have tested them several times, but each time we failed. Now we need your help. I know in what type of a situation you are in at this time. However, I am sure that you will not want to see your motherland succumbing under the control of Communists.
Dr. Lee, please extend us a helping hand for the sake of your motherland. The fate of your motherland is like a flickering candle in the face of an imminent storm. The country is in a grave danger and nobody knows what will happen to your motherland. I plead with you to help your motherland.
I wish you and your family a good health and good luck.
March 18, 1977
President of the Republic of Korea.
Having read the letter, Dr. Lee fell in a miserable state of mind. Dr. Lee felt dismal. Dr. Lee wrote in his diary on that day (March 20, 1977) as follows:
President Park Chung-Hee has sent me a personal letter. The letter said that my motherland desperately needed me. I studied nuclear energy because I had aptitude for the subject. My next target has been the salvation of mankind through the use of nuclear energy. I could develop resources through the use of nuclear energy and create new resources that would be boundless. I have dedicated my life to this end.
It is my future desire.
However, as I imagined the possibility of the fall of my motherland under the control of Communists and the destruction that could come to the Korean people through another war and that the tragedy would be much, much worse than that suffered during the Korean War, I asked myself, ‘What should I do for the sake of my motherland?’
The United States made a clear break from Vietnam and is doing the same thing to the ROK. The clear fact is that my motherland is at stake.
face of the withdrawal of the US forces from the ROK and falling of my motherland under the rule of the Communists, if I reconsider my objective of using the nuclear energy limited only to the development of resources, I asked myself ‘Would it be a right thing to do?’
In order to keep my motherland free from such a fate, if I give my nuclear development know-how to my motherland and if it keeps my people from the war and from the control of the Communists, I asked myself, ‘Would it not be justified even if President Park would not give up his Yusin Revitalizing Reforms System?’ After all, Korea is where I was born and bred, isn’t it? Or should I turn a blind eye to the dire reality of my motherland?
Such a decision could bring death to me, but then my life would save my motherland. Should I not make such a decision? If my life will help motherland remain safe and save my beloved mother, brothers and friends, should I not make such a decision?
Then there came President Park’s second personal letter, which was to the following effect:
Dear Dr. Lee:
Only your return to the Republic of Korea would be the way to save your motherland. This is a very urgent plea because the situation is becoming from bad to worse.
I can no longer be servile to the US because it does not work. I do not wish to be humble to them any more.
Dr. Lee, I plead with you again to come back to Korea.
April 8, 1977
President of the Republic of Korea
Dr. Lee could not have a wink of sleep that night. He ran through his schedule, which included a special lecture at Harvard University on April 8 and another one at Tokyo University on May 20. Dr. Lee completed his papers on April 25, and waited for the lecture at Tokyo University in May.
On May 15, 1977, Dr. Lee visited his surgeon friend, Dr. Kim, who lived on the outskirts of Chicago, and explained to him about the urgent situation in Korea, including the withdrawal of the US forces from Korea and the possibility of another Communist takeover of the ROK.
Dr. Lee then asked Dr. Kim for a surgical operation to plant his secret nuclear energy-related document in one of his bones.
On May 19, 1977, Dr. Lee arrived in Tokyo, and at 11 pm on May 21 Dr. Lee boarded a plane at the Narita Airport and left Japan for Korea. In a little over an hour, Dr. Lee arrived at the Gimpo Airport, from which he moved by a helicopter that landed on the garden of the Presidential Mansion of Cheong Wa Dae.
President Park Chung-Hee was waiting for him. Park told him, “Thank you, Dr. Lee.” President Park grabbed the hands of Dr. Lee firmly, became emotional, and shed tears of joy.
Soon, Dr. Lee had an operation to retrieve the document from inside his bone.
On May 27, 1977, Dr. Lee returned to the US, and worked even harder than before, and gained much fame from the science and technology and the academic circles.
On June 16, 1977, Dr. Lee had an invitation to give a lecture at the National Scientific Research Institute in Colorado. He drove his car with his wife, son and daughter in the back. He drove slowly. Dr. Lee had a chauffeur, but on many occasions he drove by himself.
After the suburbs of Chicago, Dr. Lee entered Illinois, whereupon a heavy- duty truck coming from the opposition direction suddenly drove over the centerline and bumped into Dr. Lee’s car head on. There was about 100-meter distance between the two vehicles but the truck dashed to Dr. Lee’s car.
Dr. Lee collapsed. His wife, son and daughter momentarily lost their senses. The wife instantly felt certain that the driver hit the car purposely. After he hit Dr. Lee’s car, the driver ran away driving away the truck.
An emergency bell rang at Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul at 11:30 p.m. and the message was “Dr. Lee died.”
One of his secretaries asked, “Sir, did Dr. Lee die?” Whereupon, President Park indignantly said, “No, he did not die. He was killed.”
“Who killed Dr. Lee, Mr. President?” asked the secretary.
“Who else but the US? They have bugged Cheong Wa Dae eavesdropping on us 24 hours a day.”
The secretary told President Park, “Sir, Dr. Lee is under surveillance not only by the US CIA for 24 hours a day but also by the intelligence agencies of the Soviet Union through the use of their satellite and also North Korea has been closely watching Dr. Lee.”
President Park said, “The US killed Dr. Lee. Even if some other party had killed him, the US government should have protected him. Diden’t they say that they are doing ‘Moral Politics’? How come such people do such a thing! And why don’t they catch the assailant?”
The following morning, President Park called the US ambassador to his office and lodged a strong protest against the incident. Then he called a press conference and issued a statement.
His statement read in part:
The US has been bugging the Presidential Office of Cheong Wa Dae eavesdropping on us 24 hours a day and treating South Korea like a colonial state. The US is not treating us as a sovereign state nor as an ally. We will no longer do the begging to the US. We will not consult with the US even on national defense matters.
The US has already withdrawn the missile unit without a word of consultation with us and they are planning to pull out all the 20,000 ground forces by the end of this year. How can we trust a country doing things like that to us?
Then he told his secretaries, “All we have to do is develop and possess the kind of nuclear weapons the US and the USSR have.”
The funeral service for the late Dr. Lee was over. His fellow scientists deplored that “if he had lived one more year he would have received the Nobel Prize.”
Two months later, President Park presented an Order of Civil Service Merit, Dongbaek Medal, to Dr. Lee, which was received by his mother on his behalf.
President Park warmly held the hands of Dr. Lee’s mother with tears in his eyes, and told her, “Madam, Dr. Lee was a very important person and a very nice man. We will all miss him.” Park wiped his tears with a handkerchief.
After Dr. Lee’s supply of secret document to the ROK on the nuclear weapons and missile development and his tragic passage, the attitude on the part of the US has changed. President Jimmy Carter increased his pressure on the ROK citing human rights situation in the ROK.
In response to this, President Park complained to the US that they bugged the Presidential Mansion of Cheong Wa Dae for 24 hours a day. Love was lost and relationship between Presidents Park and Carter became emotional.
President Carter asked President Park to release at once the opposition politicians and stop developing nuclear weapons, and warned that if Park did not heed his demand, the US will not extend the US$292 million loan from the US Export-Import Bank.
A close advisor to Park recommended to President Park, “Mr. President, I will give you a good idea about building a secret nuclear weapons project site.”
To this, President Park said, “I know what I am doing. You have nothing to worry about. We will attain our goal soon. Then I will retire from my office and politics. Maybe I will go to the Yeungnam University and stay there.”
President Park expedited the development of guided missiles and nuclear weapons and received reports day and night on the progress made. He often personally called and checked how they were doing. He would also visit the development sites of the Korea Nuclear Fuel Development Corps and the Korea National Defense Science Institute without any advance notice and encourage the personnel there to expedite the work.
When he was less busy President Park would blankly stare into the sky out of the window and reminisce the time spent with Dr. Lee. Park could not forget the blood-stained document taken out of one of Dr. Lee’s bones when he became emotionally stuck with a feeling of gratitude to Dr. Lee.
The guided missile and nuclear weapons development projects progressed smoothly thanks to the personal interest on the part of President Park and the dedicated efforts of over 600 members of the project who worked encouraged by the hard work put in personally by President Park in the project.
On Aug. 26, 1978 at an unidentified site in the Republic of Korea there was a testing of the medium-long range guided missiles developed and built by the members of the Korea National Defense Science Institute and the Korea Nuclear Fuel Development Corporation. President Park and the science-technology minister witnessed the test-firing.
The first firing was the 3.3-inch anti-tank rockets, the second one was the 28-barrel rockets with a range of 20km and the third firing was a medium-range rockets with a range of 50km. They all proved a sheer success.
They had the same range of the rockets of North Korea made with USSR technology. The last firing of 150km guided missiles with an effective range of 350km was good enough to cover the entire territory of North Korea. They performed even better than the US Nike missiles.
They made the ROK the seventh country in the world to have such missiles.
The rare feat was reported by all the world media, including the Red Star of the Soviet Union which reported it on the front cover under a banner headline. Worrisome reports and comments were published also by newspapers of China, Japan, Hong Kong, France, the United Kingdom and Germany.
In 1970, President Jimmy Carter visited the ROK after his attendance at the Seven-National Summit Meeting in Tokyo, Japan. In Korea, Carter moved by a helicopter directly from the airport to a US military unit in Dongducheon.
On June 30, President Carter visited Cheong Wa Dae and demanded that President Park stop human rights restrictions, withdrawal of the Emergency Measures and suspension of development of nuclear weapons.
President Park refused to accept the proposal on the spot and many people were worried that the relations between the two countries were entering a stage of crisis. Carter told Park, “Your development of nuclear weapons is in violation of the Non-proliferation Treaty.”
In response to this, Park said, “You have nuclear weapons in your country. Why are you telling us not to make them in Korea? Isn’t it a kind of hegemonism?”
Following the meeting with President Park, President Carter arrived at the US Embassy in Seoul. He did not leave his car but had a consultation meeting with his entourage for 15 minutes and then gave them some kind of instructions. It appeared that they were secret instructions. Details of the instructions were never published.
As a result, withdrawal of the US forces from the ROK was temporarily suspended. The published reasons were for the containment of North Korea’s provocations and for coping with the increased naval strength of the USSR in the Pacific region. However, the real reason for the change of attitude on the part of President Carter, needless to say, seemed to be for making the ROK stop developing nuclear weapons.
On Oct. 26, 1979, President Park Chung-Hee died at a basement room of a separate house in Gungjeong-dong near Cheong Wa Dae due to bullets fired by Director Kim Jae-Kyu of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency.
Was Kim Jae-Kyu really an agent of the US CIA? Did the US use Kim to kill President Park to stop nuclear weapons development by the ROK?
The minister of construction at the time said, “President Park’s obstinacy and persistence in the development of nuclear weapons were very strong and formidable. It looks like President Park faced the unexpected death because of such obstinacy and persistence.”
The cause of the death of Dr. Lee and President Park remained mysterious and unknown and became buried in history without anyone clearly knowing of the cause.
In 1980, the Fifth Republic of Korea of President Chun Doo-Hwan began, and merged the Atomic Research Institute and the Nuclear Development Corporation into the Korea Energy Research Institute and the Academy of Since and the Science-Technology Institute into the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology.
Newly inaugurated President Chun Doo-Hwan visited the US and met with the also newly elected President Ronald Reagan, and traded Korea’s nuclear weapons development project for a promise of continued stationing of the US forces in Korea. Chun agreed to destroy all the nuclear development preparations.
The name of the noted Korean-born physicist, Dr. Lee Yong-Hoo, was also buried in history.
Relations between President Park and Dr. Benjanmin W. Lee
There are number of persons in Korea who state that information concerning Dr. Benjamin W. Lee in circulation in Korea in regard to his relationships with President Park Chung-Hee is not correct.
They say so especially on the question of his involvement in the development of nuclear weapons in Korea and the cause of his death. One example claiming the incorrect information about Dr. Lee is a story written by Mr. Kim Dae-bok on April 20, 2008 which was posted on the Internet by Mr. Kang Ju-sam. Excerpts follow:
Stories on Dr. Benjamin W. Lee in Korea are distorted and incorrect. This is especially true of the assertion that he was involved in the development of nuclear weapons in Korea.
In the mid-1970s, President Park Chung-Hee tried to develop nuclear weapons in Korea as he was uneasy due to the policy of the United States to withdraw its armed forces from Korea. Some Korean media reported that Dr. Lee was secretly involved in this project of President Park and that a US intelligence organization agent murdered Dr. Lee disguising it as a traffic accident. And this almost became a fait accompli by a book published in Seoul in 1989 entitled “Nuclear Physicist Lee Whi-soh.”
I checked with Mrs. Lee (widow) and confirmed that the story was totally ungrounded. I met with the author of the book and asked him to withdraw the books, to which he agreed. Then in 1993, a novel named “The Mumunghwa Flowers Have Now Come Out!” was published and became a bestseller which attracted a lot of attention from the general public. There was a statement by the author that it was only a fiction and false names were used, but it was clear to everyone that Dr. Lee was alluded to as the main character.
Dr. Lee was opposed to the development of nuclear weapons in Korea and had a critical view of the government of President Park Chung-Hee. Around 1970, India and China developed nuclear weapons which became a popular topic of discussion among the scientists. At that time, Dr. Lee expressed a serious concern over the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and was especially critical of the developing countries trying to secure nuclear weapons.
Dr. Lee’s critical attitude against dictatorship predates the Yusin Revitalizing Reforms System promulgated by President Park in 1972. In the summer of 1971, Deputy Director Chung Kun-Mo of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Dr. Lee were promoting a summer school in Korea on a regular basis as it was popular and active in Europe. However, observing the political development in Korea, Dr. Lee sent me the following letter:
A military garrison decree is proclaimed and restriction is imposed on student activities in Korea.
If I take charge of the summer school in Korea it may appear as if I were in support of the oppressive government of Korea.
I am very much concerned about this situation. On the other hand, I am very much interested in providing assistance in the development of science in Korea.
However, I would like to express my opposition against a series of instances that run counter to the principle of democracy in Korea. Therefore, I have made up my mind not to accept any invitation even if it is extended to me from the Korean government. I do not know what you would think of this, but I would say that it is the only choice I could make as a person who is concerned with the future of Korea.
Following the promulgation of the Yusin Revitalizing Reforms System in Korea, Dr. Lee told his close Korean friends that he was ashamed even to meet with foreign friends because of it, and increased his criticisms against the Korean government of President Park. Dr. Lee told me that when he came to Seoul in 1974 in connection with the examination of the AID loan, he did so because he was told by his Korean friends that although he did hate the Korean government he should come to help scientific development in Korea.
Since then, Dr. Lee changed his mind and in cooperation with his Korean scientist friends tried to invite the participating scientists in the High Energy International Symposium in Tokyo in 1978 to visit Korea for a scientific meeting. However, Dr. Lee had a fatal traffic accident in the US. This made the science meeting in Seoul in 1978, which he had promoted, turned out to be a memorial gathering for the late Dr. Lee.
Reference in memoriam to Dr. Lee,
Femilab History and Archives Project
Dr. Benjamin W. Lee, Head of the Theoretical Physics Group at Fermilab, was killed in an automobile accident near Kewanee, Illinois, on June 16, 1977. He was driving with his family to the Fermilab Program Advisory Committee Meeting at Aspen, Colorado. Dr. Lee was heading west on I-80 when an eastbound semi-trailer crossed the highway divider into the westbound lane and struck his car on the left front side. Mrs. Lee and their two children, Geoffrey and Irene, sustained minor injuries.
Benjamin W. Lee, 42, was born in Seoul, Korea, and came to the United States in 1956 as a student. He studied at Miami University, the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Pennsylvania, where he received the Ph.D. in 1960. Lee became a United States citizen in 1968.
He held appointments at a number of institutions here and abroad, including the State University of New York at Stony Brook, the Institute for Advanced Studies, and the University of Paris. He was also a fellow of the Sloan Foundation, a Guggenheim fellow, and a fellow of the American Physical Society. He served on advisory committees for many other laboratories and universities. He joined the then National Accelerator Laboratory in 1971. He also held a joint appointment as professor of physics at the Enrico Fermi Institute of the University of Chicago.
Dr. Lee was the author of more than 100 research papers in the field of elementary particle physics. His work particularly emphasized the theory of weak interactions. He made significant contributions to the development of the gauge theories that are now believed to be of fundamental importance in unifying our views of the forces between the elementary particles of the atomic nucleus.
Robert R. Wilson, in a eulogy to Dr. Lee at the services held on Tuesday, June 21, said, "Ben Lee chose our Laboratory to be his home; it was an indescribable good fortune for us. His key contribution is helping us to unite theories about electricity and radioactivity. It is a work of beauty and importance and loveliness. He set a tone, a standard of excellence, of mutual respect, an atmosphere of teaching and communication. That spirit will live on to his testimony."
(The Village Crier Vol. 9 No. 24, June 23, 1977)
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