The year 1958 was the fifth year after the end of the Korean War (1950-3) and, naturally, the late former President Syngman Rhee of the Republic of Korea (south) was unable to fully meet the requirements of a free democratic country due to the constant threat from the militant North Korean regime.
In those days, an 83-year-old man was a very, very old man unlike today and the human entourage formed a tight screen around President Rhee almost completely cutting him off from any contact with the people?let alone a free access between him and the media.
His adopted son, Rhee Kang-seok, carried a nickname, ‘August Person,’ was looked upon as the ‘Crown Prince’ of a feudal monarch of the erstwhile Korea. What he said was as good as the law. As a result, there appeared many bogus Junior Rhees who had wielded much power until they were found to be his impersonators.
Gyeong Mu Dae (old name of today’s Presidential Mansion of Cheong WaDae) was the home of the strongman (President Rhee) and even the lowest employee of Gyeong Mu Dae wielded a good measure of power in the society.
It was at this juncture when Comic Artist Kim Sung-hwan critically portrayed this situation featuring Go Ba-u, the hero of his daily comic strip, published by the conservative opposition-oriented Korean-language daily newspaper, Donga Ilbo, which is still going strong in Korea as an influential conservative, independent daily.
One of his early comic strips under the Rhee government was one that was published by Donga Ilbo on Jan. 23, 1958
The first section shows two ordinary ‘honey bucketmen’ carrying ‘honey’ (human excreta) in their buckets. (In those days, only few rich people used flush toilets and most of the people used a latrine which was emptied by ‘honey bucketmen’ who carried them away in two buckets balanced on a pole on their shoulders.) The two honey bucketmen exclaim, “Be careful, here he comes!”
The second section shows the two ordinary honey bucketmen respectfully bowing deeply to another honey bucketman and complimenting him, “We see Your August Person making a trip.” Whereupon the ‘August’ bucketman responds with a dignified ‘Ahem!’
The third section shows Go Ba-u asking one of the ordinary bucketmen, “Who is the dignified person?” Whereupon he replies, “Shh!”
The fourth and last section shows the other one of the two ordinary honey bucketmen telling Go Ba-u, “The august person is the honey bucketman of Gyeong Mu Dae (the Presidential Mansion).”
The adopted son, Rhee Kang-seok, in those days used to be called Gwihasin-mom (August Person).
Because of this comic strip, Artist Kim Sung-hwan was apprehended and taken to the Seoul Metropolitan Police Bureau and underwent interrogation for four full days on charges of ‘publication of false details concerning the personal matters of another person.’ Kim was put on a summary trial and sentenced to a fine of 450 Hwan.
Publisher-Chairman Lee Kyung-sik of The Korea Post met with Artist Kim on Dec. 10, 2014 in Seoul together with former Vice President Yun Ik-hanof The Korea Herald (now chairman of the Herald Old Boys’ Club) and former Chairman Park Ki-byung of the Journalists Association of Korea, both leading members of the Korea Jounrlaist Club, of which Publisher-Chairman Lee is also a member.