The Words of the Kinney Family

Manufacturing Guns

Joe Kinney
August 5, 1999

I worked in Tong IL Industries four years 1978-1981. I also signed a nondisclosure agreement which I have not violated and will not violate now. But here is what I can tell you.

Since 1960 Tong IL was in Seoul. Most of the time in Su Tak Ri next door to the IL Hwa company. In 1976 as part of his 5-year plan Park Chun Hee established 5 industrial zones in the South to be out of artillery range from North Korea: Petro Chemical, Steel, Light Industry, Heavy Industry, and Defense Industry.

Any qualified company that would agree to relocate to one of these zones would get interest free loans and government defense contracts.

Tong IL at the time was making engine lathes, radio speakers, air rifles, and the wooden stocks for the M-1 carbine rifle. Tong IL was able to qualify for the program in the light industry zone and in 1977 started construction on their new Factory In the Chang Wan industrial complex, In the Kwung Nam Province not too far from Pu-San.

The most lucrative product was the metal ammo boxes that hold the bullets. They also made other more technically challenging components and assemblies for weapons systems. The main product was the Tong IL line of machine tools. They never made a single part for a M-16 or AR-15 these were made in the government owned armory in the Defense Industry Zone.

All these products were made under license from the US companies that invented them. This was no shady deal. Every single component was accounted for. No complete weapon systems were produced. Every other major Korean manufacturer had taken advantage of this opportunity.

This was not a secret operation. Bus loads of US soldiers toured the plants in the area, including ours, perhaps once per month. Each US ambassador and commanding general visited. When I visited the military attaché in Seoul he was very knowledgeable of the plants physical layout and products.

Tensions were very high during this time. Military production was a patriotic duty. I went through the assassination of Park Chung Hee, Chun Doo Wan's Coup and a couple years of martial law. By Korean law every man in every factory was part of the companies reserve battalion and had an M-1 carbine in the plant armory. We had military exercises and mock battles complete with helicopters and commandos inside the industrial zone.

No one familiar with the situation in Korea would accuse Tong IL for participating in its defense. This is a luxury for those who didn't loose their relatives in the conflict. As I implied above Seoul is within artillery range of the DMZ.

The latest news I have is that after trials and tribulations Tong-IL still survives. It is the precursor to the company making the cars in Vietnam and now North Korea.

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