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Lew Byong-hyun

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Lew Byong-hyun
Korean pronunciation: [ju.bjʌŋhjʌn]
Born(1924-10-18)18 October 1924
Died21 May 2020(2020-05-21) (aged 95)
NationalitySouth Korean
Korean name
유병현 or 류병현
Revised RomanizationYu Byeong-hyeon
McCune–ReischauerYu Byŏnghyŏn

Lew Byong-hyun (18 October 1924 – 21 May 2020) was a South Korean general and diplomat. He served in the Republic of Korea Army from 1948 to 1981, after which he served in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs until 1986. Some sources also give his name as Yu Byung-hyun, Lew Byung-hyun, Lew Byong-hion, or Lew Byong-hyon.

Military career

Lew graduated from the 7th class of the Korea Military Academy in 1948.[1] He was promoted to brigadier-general in 1961.[1] He was a supporter of Park Chung-hee's coup in May that year, and was rewarded for his loyalty with a post in Park's junta as Minister of Agriculture after the resignation of Major General Chang Kyu-soon in June 1963.[1][2]

Lew continued in his military posts as well; from September 1966 to September 1967, he was Commander of the "Tiger" Division in Vietnam.[1] Among other operations, he was responsible for the controversial evacuation of civilians from the mountains of Phu Cat District in 1966.[3] After his return from Vietnam, Lew became the Director of Planning and Operations (작전기획부장) under the Joint Chiefs of Staff.[1] He was widely noted for his 1968 prediction that North Korea would launch an all-out attack on South Korea, "whether it be today or in years to come", though Charles H. Bonesteel III disagreed with his assessment.[4]

Lew continued his rise through the ranks, finally being promoted to daejang in 1977.[1] In that capacity, he inaugurated the ROK-US Combined Forces Command in 1978 and served as its first deputy commander.[5] In December 1979, Lew additionally became Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.[1] As Chairman, Lew visited the United States in November 1980 at the invitation of U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman David C. Jones. While there, he met with then-President-elect Ronald Reagan's national security advisor Richard V. Allen regarding Kim Dae-jung, who was facing capital punishment on charges of sedition for his role in the Gwangju Uprising; this was the first step in a diplomatic push by Reagan that would ultimately see Kim's death sentence commuted.[6][7] He held the position of Chairman until his retirement from the military in 1981.[1]

Civilian career

After his retirement, Lew continued working for the South Korean government in civilian positions. He was named South Korea's eleventh ambassador to the United States in May 1981, succeeding Kim Yong-shik.[8][9][10] Among other duties there, he continued to keep a close eye on Kim Dae-jung, who had gone into exile in the United States in 1982 after his prison sentence was suspended.[11] He remained in Washington D.C. until 1985, thereafter becoming the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' ambassador-at-large until 1986.[1]

Personal life

Lew was born in Cheongwon County, North Chungcheong Province in what is today South Korea.[12] He was married to Yang Jeong-hui (양정희), with whom he had four sons.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "만나보고 싶었습니다-유병현 前 합참의장 (Let's get to know former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Lew Byong-hyun)". Korea Defense Daily. 2002-09-28. Retrieved 2013-05-28.
  2. ^ "Food Crisis Ousts Minister in Korea". The New York Times. 1963-06-26. Retrieved 2013-05-28.
  3. ^ "'The Innocent Must Suffer'". Gadsden Times. 1966-10-13. Retrieved 2013-05-28.
  4. ^ "Red Attack Not Imminent". Ellensburg Daily Record. 1968-01-28. Retrieved 2013-05-28.
  5. ^ "Candid Advice from a Veteran of the Alliance". Chosun Ilbo. 2006-09-11. Retrieved 2013-05-28.
  6. ^ Halloran, Richard (1980-11-20). "Seoul's Top Soldier Warned by U.S. on Dissident Case; Reagan Aides Also Concerned Seoul Reliant on U.S. Support". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-05-28.
  7. ^ Evans, Rowland; Novak, Robert (1981-02-04). "Reagan's private intervention saved Kim". Eugene Register-Guard. Retrieved 2013-05-28.
  8. ^ "駐美大使에 柳炳賢씨 (Lew Byong-hyun to be ambassador in U.S.)". Kyunghyang Shinmun. 1981-05-15. Retrieved 2013-05-28.
  9. ^ "駐美大使 柳炳賢씨내정 (Lew Byong-hyun nominated as ambassador to U.S.)". Dong-A Ilbo. 1981-05-15. Retrieved 2013-05-28.
  10. ^ "New ambassador chosen by Korea". The Day. 1981-05-21. Retrieved 2013-05-28.
  11. ^ "Ambassador warns dissident". Ellensburg Daily Record. 1984-11-29. Retrieved 2013-05-28.
  12. ^ "유병현". Nate. Archived from the original on 2013-06-29. Retrieved 2013-05-28.
Military offices
Preceded by
Kim Jong-Hwan
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Republic of Korea
Succeeded by
Yoon Seung-Min
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Kim Yong-shik
Ambassador of South Korea to the United States
Succeeded by
Kim Kyung-won
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Lew Byong-hyun
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