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Digital Archive International History Declassified


Jo Bong-am

Andrew C. Nahm and James E. Hoare

After serving a one-year prison term in 1919 for his participation in the March First demonstrations, Jo joined a radical leftist group in Tokyo..


JO BONG-AM (1898-1959). After serving a one-year prison term in 1919 for his participation in the March First demonstrations, he went to Tokyo to study, joining a radical leftist group there. Jo went to Shanghai in 1919, and then to Moscow to study at the Communist University of Toilers of the East. Upon returning to Korea, he became a founding member of the Korean Communist Party in 1925, and he collaborated with other Socialists in forming the General Federation of Farmers and Laborers. Jo played an active role in promoting social revolution, as a result of which he served several prison terms. After his release from prison in August 1945, Jo was active in the labor movement and, in September 1945, in cooperation with other Communists, he reestablished the Korean Communist Party. However, in 1946, he left the Korean Communist Party following a disagreement with the head of the party, Pak Heon-yeong.

Elected in 1948 to the Constituent Assembly, Jo became the first minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries of the Syngman Rhee administration, and advocated radical land reform and a progressive economic policy that led to his dismissal by President Rhee. He was reelected to the National Assembly in 1950, and ran for the presidency in the 1952 election. In 1956, Jo formed the Progressive Party and in the same year ran for the presidency.

In January 1958, he was arrested and sentenced to a five-year prison term for illegal possession of firearms and a minor violation of the National Security Law. He was found guilty of “treason against the state in collaboration with the Communists,” and was executed on 30 July 1959.

All rights reserved. No portion of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior written permission of the publisher. (Historical Dictionary of the Republic of Korea, by Andrew C. Nahm and James E. Hoare, published by RLPG Books, appears by permission of the author and publisher).