SEOUL — The first major tragedy in Park Geun-hye’s life was a shooting that took place at the National Theater in downtown Seoul nearly 40 years ago. She didn’t even witness it. She was studying in Grenoble, France, at the foot of the Alps, when she got a worried call from the South Korean Embassy. The official didn’t give any specifics.
“The person only said that something had happened to my mother,” Park wrote in her 2007 memoir, “and that I needed to return home.”
The details that Park would soon learn redirected her life suddenly and irreversibly, ending her hopes of becoming a professor, flinging her for the first time into the public spotlight, and setting her on a course that would lead to the nation’s top office, the presidency, a job into which she’ll be sworn next month.
Park lost her mother, first lady Yook Young-soo, in the assassination attempt that missed its real target — her father, President Park Chung-hee. The shooting forced Park to replace her much-admired mother, becoming de facto first lady.