South Korea’s first woman president once came to Gordonton. The year was 1968 and Park Geun-hye, then 16, was in the entourage of her father, President Park Chung-hee who was on a state visit to New Zealand. The tour included a visit to a typical New Zealand dairy farm, belonging to brothers Jack and Walter Riddell, on Woodlands Rd.
Jack’s son David, who was nine at the time, was also there. “Uncle Wal’s shed was quite new back then, and looked great,” he says. “There were a lot of new calves coming in, and I remember one had a good suck on the president’s fingers.”
Also in the party were Prime Minister Keith Holyoake, and President Park’s wife, Yuk Young-soo, who was killed in an assassination attempt on her husband by a North Korean sympathiser in 1974. Park Geun-hye then took on the role of first lady. Park Chung-hee has been credited with bringing about the rapid post-war industrialisation of South Korea, but was also criticised for his human rights record. He was assassinated in 1979.