[Tae-Joon Park Commemoration] Rise of Steel-Giant
[Tae-Joon Park Commemoration] Rise of Steel-Giant
  • Reporter Kim Sung-hwan
  • 승인 2012.01.01 13:15
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▲ The timeline shows Tae-Joon Park's life was going on.

The foreign readers might not be familiar with Tae-Joon Park, who passed away on Dec. 13, other than the fact that he was the founder of POSTECH. For those who may be curious of the POSTECH founder’s life, The Postech Times has briefly written about the life of Tae-Joon Park from his birth to death.

Early Age
Tae-Joon Park was born in Yangsan-si, Gyeongsangnam-do in 1927. He moved to Japan when he was six and how he spent his early ages is not known. He entered Waseda University and studied mechanical engineering. After Korea’s independence in 1945, Park came back to South Korea.

Return to South Korea
When he came back to South Korea, he entered Korea Military Academy. Here he met Park Chung-hee, who later overthrew the presidency of Korea and assumed the dictatorial regime. After graduation, Tae-Joon Park was commissioned as a second lieutenant.

In the Korean War, he fought on the front and lost touch with Chung-hee. After the ceasefire, he went to the Korea army headquarters and took the human resource management position. Then he reunited with Chung-hee.

Against the corrupted government, Park Chung-hee staged a coup. Before the designated day, he requested Tae-Joon Park to look for his family in case of failure.

The coup was successful, and Chung-hee took control over the country. Then Chung-hee positioned Park as a member of the Supreme Council of National Reconstruction and he participated in the 5-year Economic Development Plan. The Supreme Council of National Reconstruction was the center of the regime which converged the three powers and broke checks and balances. The dictatorship began.

Park contributed to the sustainability of the dictatorship which is unfortunate if one believes that this suppression of democratic values cannot be offset with any other positive contributions or values.  The interpretation is upon the writers of history.  Then Chung-hee ordered Park to establish a steel-processing company in 1967.

In 1968, Tae-Joon Park established POSCO. In five years by 1973, POSCO completed the construction of the integrated iron and steel mill system. In the year, POSCO hit revenue of 100 million USD. In 25 years, POSCO reached its foundational objective of attaining the ability to produce 20 million tons of steel yearly.

When Park took the job and moved around the world to look for bond-providers in 1968, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) refused Park’s request for financing. IBRD financed Brazil instead to build a steel mill. By 1986, the Brazilian steel mill was producing four million tons whereas POSCO was producing 12 million tons.
Park thought of recalling the claim for war damages to Japan. The original document which solidified the claim conditions limited the use of the compensation to the agricultural use only. He persuaded the Japanese cabinet. Since the financing was from the war compensation, he always emphasized the sacrifices of the ancestors.

The following are some stories about Park’s philosophies in business:
In 1972, when a loosely jointed bolt was found in one of the plants, he summoned directors and ordered them to check each of 240,000 bolts one by one and to color in white.
In 1977, a factory under construction, which was 80% finished, was found to have a part of the construction where concrete was dubbed 10cm less than the standard. Park collected all directors he could and directed to explode the construction.
According to Metal Bulletin record of 2010, POSCO was the world’s fourth largest steel-producer after ArcelorMittal, Nippon Steel and Baoshan Iron.

Tae-Joon Park began his political life in 1981 as a member of the National Assembly. Since then, he was both a congressman of the National Assembly and an honorary president of POSCO. In 1986, he founded POSTECH.

Step by step, he became the chairman of the Democratic Justice Party, the party he had been in since the beginning of his political life. Then in 1990, his Democratic Justice Party merged with two other parties. However, Kim Young-sam, the chairman of one of the three parties, was in political opposition with Park and became the president later. Pressed by new president, Park was forced to head Japan.

Later when Young-sam was politically troubled with the Asian economic crisis, Park came back to Korea and cooperated with Kim Daejung for the turnover of the regime. They succeeded and newly elected president Kim appointed Park the prime minister; however, Park was implicated with real estate corruption and resigned from the prime ministry in five months.

Then in 2011, he passed away in peace a few days after his statue was placed in Nobel Park of POSTECH.