Posted by: rbbadger | August 19, 2009

金大中 前 대통령 逝去

Kim Dae Jung, former president of the Republic of Korea from 1998 until 2003 passed away earlier today at age 85.  Former President Kim is indisputably an important figure in Korean history.  Often known as the perennial candidate, he took on a number of different challenges during his life.  He was a very loud and vocal promoter of democracy.  During the 1970s, he ran against the dictatorial Park Chung-hee regime and very nearly won.  He would run for president a few more times.  In 1998, he finally won, a testament to his perseverance against all odds.  An opponent of the martial law which the Chun regime placed the country under, he found himself put on trial and sentenced to death.  Through the good offices of the Reagan administration, he was later permitted to leave Korea and go into exile in the US, later returning to Korea in 1985. 

A life-long believer in the virtues of reconciliation and forgiveness, he asked his predecessor, former president Kim Young-sam to pardon former presidents Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo.  Chun and Roh had been found guilty for their roles in the 1980 Gwangju Massacre as well as for massive corruption.  In the case of Chun, he had been sentenced to death.  I was not aware of this, but in reading reports about former president Chun’s visit to former president Kim in the hospital, President Chun spoke how how graciously Kim Dae Jung treated him and all the living ex-presidents during his time in the Presidential Blue House (Cheong Wa Dae).  You have to keep in mind that President Kim fought long and hard against the authoritarianism of the Chun regime.  Pardoning someone who was responsible for your imprisonment, death sentence, and exile is not something that many would consider doing, let alone have that person over for dinner.

Kim Dae Jung was, since his conversion in 1957, a very devout Roman Catholic.  I am not sure about the format that the State Funeral will take.  President Roh Moo-hyun’s funeral was outdoors.  If President’s Kim’s funeral is outdoors, perhaps I will be able to join the crowds.  President Roh was baptised a Catholic, but he had long ago lapsed in the practice of his faith.  In fact, his remains are buried near a Buddhist temple close to his home.    I am imagining that this will be a Catholic funeral, though perhaps the State Funeral will be an interreligious affair like President Roh’s funeral was with a private funeral Mass later.


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