In happier times a few years ago, Tongsun Park's life here in Seoul was an Asian version of the elgant party-giving style for which he was known in Washington.
There were exquisite dinner parties with pretty women in attendance, fine food, and traditional Korean music at his richly-appointed villa up in the hills.
His guests were from Seoul's social elite, the diplomatic set, and occasionally the middle-level ranks of government, including the Korean Central Intelligence Agency.
On his trips back home from the United States, he would look in on his several profitable businesses, visit the private school where he was chairman, cheer up his widowed mother, and dine at the better restaurants.
But the present visit is different for the Korean bon vivant who has been indicted in Washington's influence-peddling scandal. Although he moves around town and pops up in the same restaurants. He is reportedly under the loose custody and constant surveillance of the government he is accused of once serving.
Park he is described by associates as depressed by the turn of events here and in Washington and weary of being hounded by the foreign press. He no longer rents the fashionable villa, and now stays mostly at his home on the outskirts of Seoul or with his ill mother.
In brief, impromptu meetings with reporters last week as he left the Seoul prosecutor's office, he protested his innocence and said he would not return to Washington's "emotionally charged" atmosphere. Since then, he has remained out of contact and requests for interviews go unanswered.
As friends and business associates described it, his life during previous trips back home was one of regular party-giving and hob-nobbing with the influential, just as in Washington except for one difference. In Seoul, there was no need for social-climbing because his family was already near the top.
When Park was born March 16, 1935, he and his family lived in what is now North Korea. His father was a prominent businessman and had offices in Seoul. As early as the 1920s, according to Chang Hyup, one of Park's business associates, the father prospered as a tobacco merchant and a marketing agent for the Shell Oil Co. By the 1940s, his enterprises placed him among Korea's top 10 businessmen.
The well-to-do family moved to Seoul in 1945 to escape communism and continued to prosper. When his father died in 1953, Park and two older brothers began looking after some of the family interests.
A business biography here lists Park as president and chief executive officer in six corporations, the largest of which is Miryung Moolsan Co. Ltd, an international trading and consulting firm. There are other interests in real estate, shipping, mining, tourism and engineering.
One brother, Park Kun Suk, has become wealthy in his own right with interests in banking, shipping and other businesses, Chang said.
Whe he was 14 years old, Park was sent to the United States to further his education. It is common for sons and daughters of prominent Korean families to study abroad, although friends say it unusual for one to leave home as early as Park did. Records here say he received a diploma from Edison High School in Seattle, Wash., and completed his freshman year at the College of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Wash., in June 1956.
He then enrolled in Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service, became president of the student government, and graduated in June 1962.
A friend who has known Park in both countries said he was a poor student who cared little for the books and who spent much of his time trying to make his social mark. He was driven to social events around Washington in a Lincoln Continental by a student friend. He often crashed embassy parties to associate with politically prominent people. "He was always conniving for something," said the friend.
In Seoul, Park initially told colleagues he would make his career in South Korean politics. One recalls Park's vow to become president of South Korea some day. By the early 1970s, however, he was telling them he would stick to his business endeavors in South Korea and Washington.
He entertained in Seoul regularly - dinners, receptions, luncheons. "Being single, you cannot except him to ba all by himself all the time," explained Chang, who is the top exechanged Chang, who is the top executive of miryung Moolsan. Park once told a friend he had never married because he could not find the ideal woman.
Park's dinner parties in the villa near the vast resort complex on Walker Hill, outside Seoul, come vividly to mind among Park's acquaintances. According to one friend who attended several, they were elegant affairs set amid beautiful works of oriental art. Costumed musicians played traditional Korean songs on classical instruments. Middle-level KCIA officials were occasional guests, the friend recalled.
At one time, Park wanted to create a facsimile in Seoul of his George town Club as a place to bring together the socially and politically prominent. He sought government support for the venture but was turned down, the friend said.
Park was also known as a patron of the arts. He supported a struggling painter who has since become famous in South Korea and also gave financial assistance to a singer, according to Chang.
Chang describes Park now as depressed, saddened, and somewhat baffled by his indictment and by the luror in Washington. Park hated to leave Washington, which he liked to call his second home, Chang said.
"He is very pro-American and that is why he is so much let down," Chang said.