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Rated: E · Fiction · Mystery · #2289556
Imprisoned for a Typo for writers cramp

Imprisoned for a Typo

         Kim Jae-Mun was an editor for a major Korean newspaper during the Park Chung Hee military dictatorship. In the early ’70s, General Park began a crackdown on the media, entertainment, and Universities which were hotbeds of dissent and anti-regime feelings. President Park was a dour man who had little personal charisma and no sense of humor and ruled with an iron fist while proclaiming he was promoting Korean Style democracy as opposed to the communist North.

         In those days, Korean papers used a mixed script half Chinese characters (Hanja) and half pure Korean “Hangul” script. They were shifting to pure hangul as fewer young people learned “hanja”.

         One day, he published a headline that used the Chinese Character Dog instead of the character Great about the President. The Korean word for President was then read as the President Great Dog.

         The security forces shut down the newspaper for a week and arrested the editor.

         The presiding judge, Moon Taeon asked the defendant,

         “How do you plead?”

         “ Not Guilty”

         His lawyer tried to explain the circumstances. .

         “it was a simple typo. These things happen particularly on breaking news stories.”

         The court under orders from the President did not accept the not-guilty plea and sentenced him to 21 years in prison for a typo.

         Judge Moon declared.

         “ The court find you guilty of slander, writing an anti-state headline, insulting the president and the country, and helping the enemy with your slanderous articles. The court sentences you to 21 years in prison without the possibility of parole.”

          He was released 21 years later, and was re-hired as an editor and wrote a book and movie about his life as a journalist and his life behind bars where he became an unofficial prison attorney advising fellow inmates, many of whom were political prisoners of their rights.


Puzzling situations hook interest in life and writing. Figuring out a solution before the end of a story or poem keeps the interest flowing. This can be a powerful tool for writers.

Write a puzzling story or poem about an innocent victim convicted and imprisoned for twenty-one years for an unusual crime. Why twenty-one years? What happens?

Make one of the genre mysteries.

This is loosely based on a true story. I largely made the name of the editor and the details up because it happened a long time ago before I first went to Korea in 1979. I think the incident occurred in 1968, and he served less than five years in prison rather than 21 years to fix the prompt. I believe he did write a book and a movie came out about it circa 1990? It was a big story in Korea and the US at the time.

Note: Korea has largely abandoned the mixed Hanja/Hangul script, The Korean newspapers used it until 2000, when they found that most younger readers had a hard time with the Hanja which was no longer mandatory in school. Newspapers, journals, and fiction use 95 percent Korean, with some English and Chinese characters (often with Korean in parenthesis). these days. Chinese characters are equivalent to Latin words in the English language.

The Chinese character for dog 狗

The Chinese character for great 大(Edited)

The Chinese characters for Great President 大 總統

Korean for dog 개 gae

Korean for President 위대한 대통령
widaehan daetonglyeong

typo 狗 總統 instead of 大 總統

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