Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Another One Bites the Dust

That's two posts in a row with songs for titles. They're just so apropos...

I mentioned earlier that South Korea's former president, Roh Mu-hyun, jumped to his death/was possibly murdered. The one prior to him, Kim Dae-jung, recently passed away (of natural causes). He was born when Korea was still just Korea and constantly advocated for a reunification. It was his "Sunshine Policy" that Roh tried to continue all throughout his presidency.

He was also tough as nails:

Kim was born into a farming family in South Jeolla province in Korea's southwest when the country was still under Japanese colonial rule.

He started a business after the end of Japanese occupation and it survived the 1950-53 war on the Korean peninsula.

But as South Korea's government veered toward authoritarianism, he chose to go into politics and quickly marked himself as a dissident.

After three losing bids, he was elected to the National Assembly in 1961. Days later, Maj. Gen. Park Chung-hee staged a military coup and dissolved parliament.

Kim ran for the presidency a decade later, nearly defeating Park, who altered the constitution to guarantee his rule in the future.

Just weeks after the election, Kim was in a traffic accident he believed was an attempt on his life. For the rest of his days, he walked with a limp and often leaned on a cane.

In 1973, South Korean agents broke into his Tokyo hotel room and dragged him to a ship where he claimed they planned to dump him at sea. The would-be assassins aborted the plan following intervention by U.S. officials, who sent an American military helicopter flying low over the ship.


Upon his return to Seoul in 1973, Kim was put under house arrest and then imprisoned. His release came only after Park's assassination by his spy chief in late 1979.

Kim was pardoned a few months later. But the drama did not end there.

Weeks after Park's death, military leader Chun Doo-hwan seized power. Five months later, tens of thousands in the southern city of Gwangju — one of Kim's political strongholds — took to the streets to protest the junta.

Troops suppressed the uprising, killing some 200 people by official accounts. Accusing Kim of fomenting the uprising, a military tribunal sentenced him to death. Washington again intervened, and the sentence was commuted to life and then reduced to 20 years.

Kim refused to consider it a setback.

The sentence was later suspended and he left for the U.S., where he lived until 1985. He was 72 when he was elected president.

Expressing his trademark forgiveness and lack of vengeance, Kim immediately sought a pardon for Chun Doo-hwan, the military general who ordered Kim's death in 1979 and was sentenced for mutiny and treason.

Chun was among well-wishers who went to Kim's hospital room in recent days.

But the defining moment of the Kim presidency was his historic meeting with Kim Jong Il in 2000.

That summit — the first between the two Koreas — eased decades of tensions and ushered in an era of unprecedented reconciliation.

Families divided for decades held tearful reunions, and South Koreans began touring North Korea's famed scenic spots. Kim won the Nobel Peace Prize that year.

"In my life, I've lived with the conviction that justice wins," he said in accepting the honor. "Justice may fail in one's lifetime, but it will eventually win in the course of history."

Full article here.

1 comment:

  1. "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

    -Marin Luther King Jr.

    By the way, be sure to check out "The President's Last Bang", a controversial and darkly funny movie about Park Chung-Hee's assassination.