Posted by: rbbadger | May 30, 2009

President Roh’s funeral

Today was the day of the funeral and everything seemed to go fairly well.  I saw a bit of it at work.  We have a TV in the kitchen where our cook can watch TV while she prepares the food.  Much like during the Beijing Olympics, we were are huddled in the tiny kitchen to see what was going on.  The funeral, which was organized by a committee chaired by the current and former Prime Ministers of the Republic of Korea, was held outside of Seoul’s Gyeongbok Palace.  Former president Chun Doo-hwan did not attend, though I was surprised to see him attend the viewing of one of his critics, the late Archbishop of Seoul, Stephen Cardinal Kim Sou-hwan.  I also did not see former President Roh Tae-woo, president from 1988 to 1993 in attendance.  Former presidents Kim Young-sam and Kim Dae Jung, both powerful voices for democracy, made their appearance.  Kim Dae Jung looked very frail.  He was in a wheelchair.

Former President Roh was baptized as a Catholic sometime during his life.  However, unlike former president Kim Dae Jung, he was not a practicing Catholic.  While he maintained friendly relationships with the Cardinal Archbishop of Seoul and his predecessor, he spoke of himself as an agnostic.  As a part of the funeral, representatives of four of the major religions in Korea were invited to take part.  The Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism sang some of the traditional chants that would be sung a Buddhist funeral service.  A Protestant minister prayed a prayer.  Following that, priests of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Seoul prayed the Prayers for the Dead.  Finally, ministers of the Won Buddhist Order, one of the new religions in Korea as well as one of the most successful of these, also chanted Buddhist funeral chants. 

The current president also made an appearance, though some of the crowd in attendance did yell at him and blame him for the death of the current president. 

This is the first death of a president since the establishment of the Fifth Republic in 1987.  President Choi Kyu-hah served in the Third Republic from 1979 until Maj. General Chun Doo-hwan seized power and forced him to resign in 1980. 

Following the funeral, the body of former president Roh was taken to Suwon where it was cremated.  His remains will now be buried on the grounds of his beautiful home in Gimhae, South Gyeongsang Province.

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