THERE WAS certainly something familiar-looking about the Korean, standing there under a tree sipping iced tea, but White House aide Tom Beard says he didn't catch the name when he first walked over and introduced himself.
Tongsun Park is back on the scene in Washington, doing what he does best, meeting the right people.
Last weekend, Park "dropped by" a crab feast being given on the Eastern Shore by attorney Thomas Hale Boggs Jr., son of Rep. Lindy Boggs (D.-La).
Boggs, a friend of White House chief of staff Hamilton Jordan, is adjudged by many observers currently to be one of the most influential lobbyists in Washington.
Beard was the ranking administration official there.
"We didn't even talk about rice," Beard quipped, in a reference to the millions of dollars in rice commissions which made Park the central figure in "Koreagate's" congressional bribery scandals.
Park arrived here recently, according to sources who keep track of his commings and goings, with his old mentor, former South Korean Prime Minister Chung Il Kwon, "in tow."
Chung, who has held every top job in South Korea except the presidency, "wanted to come here to see people" unofficially in behalf of the new military regime in his country, one source says.
Chung and Park recently were reported seen in Tokyo together, staying at the Imperial Hotel during the state funeral of Japanese Prime Minister Ohira. According to news accounts, Chung and other official members of the South Korean delegation tried unsuccessfully to have discussions with President Carter and members of his entourage who were also there for the funeral.
Park, always in the background, has maintained a very low profile. "He can still open a lot of doors," one source says. "But everything is still being done indirectly, with someone else's hand on the doorknob."
Park and Chung have been closely allied since the early 1960s, when Chung was South Korea's ambassador here. Park was a student at Georgetown University and became Chung's protegee.
Park has always been a door-opener for Chung, arranging meetings at the Pentagon and on Capital Hill for Chung when no one else could and taking congressional leaders to Seoul to meet with Chung.
In addition, the pair have often traveled together in the past. Chung was very visible in Tokyo in 1975 when Park was discussing multi-million dollar business deals with the Japanese.
Park also was a member of Chung's official South Korean government delegation on at least two occassions in the mid-1970s, one to Taiwan and another to Saigon.
The presence of Chung and Park here together, lobbying for support of a repressive government, is bound to raise questions in Congress and the State Department.
Park would appear to be not only surviving, but thriving, in the aftermath of Koreagate.
He is even giving interviews. He was quoted by a French reporter recently as saying that he thought the United States should quit "meddling" in South Korea's internal affairs.
It may be a new Tongsun Park who arrived in Washington this time.
There are those who say Park has undergone a religious experience recently and became a born-again Christian in the same way as Watergate figure Chuck Colson.
Park has been influenced, some say, by his association with the Fellowship Foundation of Washington, D.C., a group that is best known for its sponsorship of prayer breakfasts for politicians around the country.
He attended at least one Fellowship gathering in a private home here last week but spokesmen for the foundation refused to comment on his reported "conversion" or the "status of his spiritual beliefs."
Park has been speaking to religious youth groups here and in Korea, for the past year, friends say, and appeared at the Korean Church of the Nazarene in Virginia at least once last year.
Park's mother is a devout Presbyterian and a leading layperson in Korea, where she founded a religious school for girls.
Park himself was "adopted" by Marine chaplains during the Korean war and came to the U.S. under their sponsorship originally in the 1950s to attend the denominational King's College in Bristol, Tenn.
Then he got into trouble with school administrators for allegedly borrowing someone's car without permission and having an accident while joy riding. He was asked to leave the school.