Chang Myon

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This is a Korean name; the family name is Chang.
Chang Myon
John Myun.jpg
4th Vice President of South Korea
In office
May 30, 1956 – April 24, 1960
Preceded by Ham Tae-young
Succeeded by Lee Ki-bung
2nd Prime Minister of South Korea
In office
November 23, 1950 – April 24, 1952
Preceded by Heo Jeong
Succeeded by Chang Do-yong
7th Prime Minister of South Korea
In office
August 18, 1960 – May 18, 1961
Personal details
Born (1899-08-28)August 28, 1899
Seoul, Korean Empire
Died June 4, 1966(1966-06-04) (aged 66)
Seoul, South Korea
Spouse(s) Kim Ok-yun
Alma mater Manhattan College
Religion Roman Catholic
Korean name
Hangul 장면
Revised Romanization Jang Myeon
McCune–Reischauer Chang Myŏn
Pen name
Hangul 운석
Revised Romanization Unseok
McCune–Reischauer Unsŏk
Courtesy name
Hangul 지태
Revised Romanization Jitae
McCune–Reischauer Chit'ae
Japanese name:
Tamaoka Tsutomu (?)

Chang Myon (hangul:장면; hanja:張勉; August 28, 1899 – June 4, 1966) was a South Korean politician, educator, diplomat, journalist and social activist as well as a Roman Catholic youth activist. He was the fourth and last Vice President of the First Republic and the Prime Minister of the Second Republic. Nicknamed Unseok (운석, 雲石) or Chitae (지태, 志兌) his English name was John Myon Chang and Catholic name was Johan.

Under Japanese rule, Chang worked as a teacher; from 1919 to 1921 at Yongsan Youth Catholic Theology School and from 1931-1936 at Dongsung Commerce High School. From 1937 to 1944, he was principal of the Hyehwa-dong Catholic Church Hyehwa Kindergarten then between 1936 and December 1945 principal of Dongsung Commerce High School. From 1939 to 1942 he was also principal of Gyesong elementary school.

Between 1948 and 1949 he was the South Korean delegate to the UN General Assembly and appointed the first Republic of Korea Ambassador to the USA. In 1950 he successfully appealed to the United States and the UN to send troops to assist in the Korean War. In 1951 he was appointed Prime Minister of South Korea. From 1956 to 1960 he was vice president, and from 1960 to 1961 the 7th prime minister.

When Syngman Rhee's government was ousted by a student-led pro-democracy uprising, he was elected Prime Minister of the Second Republic in 1960. After the country adopted a parliamentary system in response to Rhee's abuse of presidential power Chang became head of government and de facto chief executive. Chang Myon's government ended when Park Chung-hee led a successful coup, which marked the end of the Second Republic [1] and the nation’s brief experimentation with the cabinet form of government.[2]


Early life[edit]

Chang Myon was born in 1899 in Incheon, the son of Chang Gi-bin and Lucia Hwang. His father was a lower class revenue officer from South Pyongan and Incheon, Pusan. His first name was Jitae (지태;志兌), which he later changed to Myon (면;勉), the Korean spelling of his name. Because his Roman Catholic name was Johan, his English name became John Myon Chang.

He was a member of the Indong Chang Family (인동장씨;仁同張氏), and descended from Jukjong Chang Cham (죽정장잠;竹亭張潛), a well-known Neo-Confucianism philosopher. Chang's ninth-generation grandfather lived in Pyongannam-do Province but his father moved to Incheon.[3] The first Roman Catholic believer in his family was his great-grandmother, Lady Park.

In 1906, he began studying at Incheon Parknun Primary School (인천 박문 소학교;仁川博文小學校), and graduated in 1912. He then went to Incheon Public Simsang elementary school (인천 공립 심상소학교, 仁川公立尋常小學校), graduating in 1914. He later attended Suwon agriculture High School (수원농업고등학교, 水原農業高等學校), from which he graduated on 25 May 1917. In March 1916, he married Kim Ok-Yun (also known as Kim Yok-yun). They had six sons and three daughters.

Study in the United States[edit]

Manhattan College student, 1921

In September 1918, he was registered at the YMCA club Village School and in 1919 began teaching at Yongsan Youth Catholic Theology school (천주교 용산소신학교, 天主敎龍山小神學校). On March 1 that year he participated in the eponymous protests against Japanese occupation but escaped arrest.

For two years he taught at the Yongsan Youth Catholic Theology school.

In January 1921, Chang went to the US with his younger brother Chang Bal to study, backed by the Maryknoll Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America. In September 1921 he entered Manhattan College and in 1924 took a one-year vacation from the college due to acute appendicitis. In August 1921, he was presented to the Secular Franciscan Order. After graduating from Manhattan College in July 1925, he left for Italy on 30 July to attend the beatification of 79 Korean Joseon Catholic martyrs. He was also received by Pope Pius XII. That August he returned to Korea.

Religious belief and education movements[edit]

On December 2, 1925, he was appointed Maryknoll Center School's professor of Korean language and translation whilst officiating for the Pyungyang archdiocese as leader of laypersons. On February 11, 1927, he entered the service of the Pyungyang Catholic church. In October 1929 he became the service chief in the superintendent's office of the Seopho railway in Pyonyang parish (평양대교구 서포역전 관리사무소). That November, he became a translator of Roman Catholic Latin terms into the Korean language in The Summary of Religious Terms. In 1930, he published Way of the seeker of truth (구도자의 길;求道者之路) and on September 15 he published Simples Joseon Catholic History (조선천주교공교회약사, 朝鮮天主敎公敎會略史).

On March 18, 1931, he resigned from the affairs of Pyonyang parish (평양대교구;平壤大敎區) and moved to Seoul. Appointed as a teacher at Dongsung Commerce High School (동성상업고등학교;東星商業高等學校) on April 1, 1931, he took on responsibility for teaching English and rhetorical subjects. On July 10 along with Jeong Ji-yong, he published the first issue of Catholic Young Men's News (가톨릭 청년지;天主敎靑年紙).

In 1935 he became Manager of Affairs for Dongsung Commerce High School then on April 1, 1937, principal of Hyehwa-dong Catholic church (혜화동 성당) and Hyehwa Kindergarten (혜화유치원, 惠化幼稚園). On November 19, 1936 he became principal of Dongsung Commerce High School (동성상업고등학교 교장;東星商業高等學校 校長), taking on the additional role as principal of Gyesong Elementary School (계성국민학교;啓星國民學校) in Jongro, Seoul in April 1939. That September, he was appointed chairman of the Seoul Catholic Young Men's National Union (경성가톨릭청년회, 京城天主敎靑年會). In August 1942, he turned down an appointment as principal of Gyesong Elementary School. On July 4, 1944 he published James Gibbons' The Faith of Our Fathers: A Plain Exposition and Vindication of the Church Founded by Our Lord Jesus Christ (교부들의 신앙) as a Korean Language hangul translation.

Political activities[edit]

Republic of Korea Ambassador to USA, 1949
Third UN General Assembly, 1948

On September 15, 1945 at the end of World War II, Japan surrendered and ended their occupation of the Korean peninsula. Chang became personal secretary to the Korean leader Syngman Rhee, an arrangement that continued until 1954. On February 11, 1946, he was appointed a member of the Democratic Conference (민주의원 의원, 民主議院議員) and a Representative of Emergency Peoples Conference (비상국민회의 대의원, 非常國民會議 代議員). That August, Chang was elected to the South Korean Provisional National Assembly (남조선과도입법위원회 의원, 南朝鮮過渡立法委員會議員). By this time he had emerged as a major political figure under Syngman Rhee's sponsorship.

On May 10, 1948 he ran for election as first congressman of the South Korean National Assembly for Jongro, Seoul and was duly elected on May 30. On October 11 the same year, he was appointed to the UN General Assembly as a South Korean delegate and witnessed the country's recognition by the UN on December 12. He was persuaded to actively help protect the freedom of religion. In 1949, he visited the Vatican, which actively sponsored Chang's diplomatic activities.

Republic of Korea Ambassador to USA, 1949

In December 1949, he was appointed Republic of Korea Ambassador to the USA.[4]

In April 1950, he was appointed special envoy of South Korea to Australia, New Zealand, and the Philippines. In July 1950, during the Korean War he solicited urgent aid from America and the UN.

Second prime minister of South Korea[edit]

In November 1950, Chang was appointed Prime Minister of South Korea, a position he at first refused, but after an earnest request from Syngman Rhee he accepted and went on to serve from October 1951 until April 29, 1952. He was sent to the sixth UN General Assembly and to Paris, France. On April 9, he returned to his country. He later became editorial commissioner and adviser to the Kyunghyang News (경향신문;京鄕新聞) .

The involvement of the Catholic Church with democratic opposition first began in the 1950s. At the initial stage it probably had more to do with factional politics than with principles.[5] As foremost leader of the opposition in the late 1950s, Chang Myon, was a Catholic, and had good relations with Ro Ki-nam, the Bishop of Seoul from the early 1940s. Ro soon came to be known as the “political bishop” because of his frequent critical statements on the dictatorial tendencies of Syngman Rhee.[5]

In April 1952, opposition lawmakers and some Liberal Party of South Korea lawmakers attempted a constitutional amendment but were branded enemies of the state by Syngman Rhee[6] When the assembly voted to have martial law lifted in Busan, Rhee had half of them arrested. After a staged assassination attempt, police began to investigate alleged links to the opposition. Police claimed that an assemblyman called Chang Myon was working with assassins paid by North Korea to depose Rhee. Under this type of pressure, the assembly voted 160 to zero for Rhee’s constitutional amendments.[6] By the late 1950s Chang Myon emerged as the major alternative to Rhee, and in 1960, when he was overthrown by a popular revolution, Chang Myon became the country’s prime minister and de facto chief executive.[5]

Fourth vice president[edit]

campaign of 4th candidate for vice-presidency (1956)

On November 30, 1954, he was a participant in the Hoheon Friends Club (ko). On September 18, 1955, he was defeated by a narrow margin by Shin Ik-hee for the Democratic Party of South Korea's (민주당, 民主黨) candidacy in the presidential election. He was instead nominated for the vice-presidency as the running mate of Shin Ik-hee, who died suddenly on May 5, 1956. On May 30, 1956 Chang was duly elected Vice President of South Korea.

On September 28, 1956 at the Democratic party's national convention in the Sigong Building (시공관, 市公館) in Jongno, Seoul he was shot by a sniper in the 9.28 Incident (ko) and received a penetrating wound to the wrist. The would-be assassin was immediately arrested and later converted to Christianity.

During his vice presidency, Chang came into conflict with Lee Ki-poong, an influential Liberal Party member, who sent spies and placed him under surveillance.

Vice presidency (1956)

In 1959, he was appointed as a member of the Supreme Council of the Democratic Party of South Korea and the same year became the Democratic Party's candidate for the vice-presidency and the running mate of presidential candidate Cho Byong-ok. Chang had attempted to become a candidate for the presidency but once again lost by a narrow margin, this time to Cho. In November the same year, he was reelected as a member of the supreme council of the Democratic Party.

Fifth congressman of South Korea[edit]

In the March 15, 1960, South Korean Vice Presidential Election, Chang suffered defeat at the hands of Lee Ki-poong by such a suspiciously large margin that protestors took to the streets alleging fraud.[7] A thousand residents gathered in front of the opposition Democratic Party building in the southern city of Masan to protest. When the police started shooting, the protesters responded by throwing rocks. One month later, the body of a young man, Kim Ju-yul, a student at Masan Commercial High School who had disappeared during the protests, was found on the beach.[7]

In May 1960, Chang was a candidate in the election for fifth congressman of the South Korean National assembly leading the New Group in the Democratic Party (민주당 신파, 民主黨 新派).

On October 12 1960, he was named Prime Minister of South Korea, following a nomination from president Yun Bo-seon. At the time, opposition politician Kim Du-han led anti-Chang Myon demonstrations. When Syngman Rhee was forced out of office in April 1960, for his Liberal party government and Li Ki-poong's mismanagement of state affairs and a string of corruption incidents, the government led by figurehead President Yun Po-son and Prime Minister Chang Myon faced political and economic difficulties.[8]

After the Korean war, newcomer politicians Kim Dae-jung and Lee Chol-seung, became drawn to politics, but they were unsuccessful in obtaining office. Chang was politically sponsored by Lee Chol-seung and Kim Dae-jung.

Seventh prime minister of South Korea[edit]

Second Republic, Kwak Gang-hun, Baik nak-jun, Yun Bo-seon and Chang Myon

During Chang's early period as prime minister there was discord over President Yun Bo-seon being leader of the old group of the Democratic Party (민주당 구파, 民主黨 舊派). As a result, the old group of the Democratic Party defected to create the New Peoples Party (신민당, 新民黨). Chang Myon's government was staffed by men with the same background, attitudes and programs as their predecessors in the former Rhee administration.[9] The failing administration of the Chang regime convinced many Koreans that changing the government from one headed by the Liberal Party to one led by the Democratic Party would achieve nothing.[9]

Chang Myon introduced programs to succor the unemployed. Under his Program for Land Planning (국토건설사업, 國土建設事業), course attendees were taught architecture and civil engineering for a period of 3–4 months.

Graduates from the Program for Land Planning

Some scholars have questioned why democracy was so short-lived following the April 19 Movement. Prof. Gottfried-Karl Kindermann of the University of Munich, Germany, told The Korea Times that the student activists instigating the uprising were not organized and that they were unable to rule the nation.[10] "But they were able to provide an opportunity for Chang Myon and other democrats so that they could get a new start. Unfortunately the new group failed to manage the state effectively," he observed.[10]

In early 1961, Koreans from both the extreme right and left attempted political change through demonstrations. In January, Chang tried to prevent prices from rising more than one percent and froze the price of rice. He also desired to guarantee freedom of expression and political freedom.

Retirement and death[edit]

In 1961, Chang Myon's government attempted to resume talks on the Basic Treaty between Japan and the Republic of Korea, and discussed eight of the proposed articles designed to normalise diplomatic ties. However, the talks came to a halt because of the coup d'état led by Park Chung-hee on May 16.[11] Following the coup, Chang escaped to the Carmelite monastery (카르멜 수도원) in Seoul. On May 20, 1961 he was removed from the position of Prime Minister after less than one year in power.[12]

On March 30, 1962, the Military Government detained Chang and prohibited him from engaging in any further political activity. Initially under the threat of the death penalty, in August 1962 he was released on bail. In 1962, He wrote an appeal to F. I. Remler, "Why Must I suffer?" (나는 왜 고통을 받아야 하나?) in Korean. On January 27, 1966, Chang was hospitalized with hepatitis at the Holy Mother Hospital (성모병원, 聖母病院) in Seoul, and on June 4, 1966, he died in Jongro at the age of 67.


Chang was buried in the Hehwa Catholic tomb on Chonbo mountin (천보산;天寶山) in Pocheon, Gyeonggi Province. On October 27, 1999, he was posthumously honored by the President of South Korea, Kim Dae-jung with the first class rank of the Order of Merit for National Foundation.[13]


His son John Chang-yik is the Roman Catholic bishop of Chuncheon and a former president of the South Korean Conference of Catholic Bishops. His other son Chang Chin was a teacher. His one brother Chang Bal was an artist.

Life style[edit]

Third UN General Assembly, 1948

Chang Myon was a liberal with an extreme dislike of communists, fascist, nazis, socialists as well as feminists and their respective ideologies. He strongly opposed totalitarianism and authoritarianism and was a rugged individualist who was very strict about not drinking or smoking.

He influenced the conversion Kim of Dae-jung to Catholicism, who later said that Chang was a "devout Catholic who believed in Catholic action to rectify many evils in Korea."[14]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Ham Tae-yong
Vice President of South Korea
Succeeded by
Office abolished
Preceded by
Shin Sung-mo
Prime Minister of South Korea
Succeeded by
Yi Yun-yong
Preceded by
Heo Jeong
Prime Minister of South Korea
Succeeded by
Choi Du-seon
(after the position was restored)
Preceded by
Lim Byung-Jik
(Provisional Government of Korea Ambassador to U.S.A)
Republic of Korea Ambassador to USA
Succeeded by
Yang Yu-chan