Kim Dae-jung, Former South Korean president, Died at 85

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Dead, Kim Dae-jung on the 18th of August 2009 at the age of 85, he was the 8th President of South Korea from 1998 to 2003, and the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize recipient.

Born on the 6th of January 1924, but he later registered birth date to the 3rd of December 1925 to avoid conscription during the time when Korea was under Japanese colonial rule.

Kim was born in Sinan in what was then the Jeolla province; the city is now in Jeollanam-do. Kim graduated from Mokpo Commercial High School in 1943 at the top of the class.

After working as a clerk for a Japanese-owned shipping company during the Imperial Japanese occupation of Korea, he became its owner and became very rich.

Kim first entered politics in 1954 during the administration of Korea’s first president, Syngman Rhee.

Although he was elected as a representative for the National Assembly in 1961, a military coup led by Park Chung-hee, who later assumed dictatorial powers, voided the elections.

He was able to win a seat in the House in the subsequent elections in 1963 and 1967 and went on to become an eminent opposition leader.

As such, he was the natural opposition candidate for the country’s presidential election in 1971.

Barely a year after the election, President Park imposed martial law, banned all political activities and rammed the so-called Yushin (revitalizing reform) Constitution through the National Assembly.

It gave the president power for life. Kim Dae-jung strenuously objected to these extra-legal measures and led campaigns against Park’s regime in the U.S. and Japan.

In August 1973, agents of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency abducted Kim from a Tokyo hotel.

The plot was to “eliminate” him but swift and strong reactions from the U.S. and Japan resulted in his release in Seoul a week later.

He was immediately placed under house arrest. On March 1, 1976, the indomitable opposition leader joined other democracy fighters in issuing the “Independence Day Declaration for Democratization,” which touched off yet another wave of pro-democracy demonstrations in Korea.

Subsequently, he was sentenced to five years in prison.

He remained in jail until the authorities released him and put him under house arrest in 1978.

Soon after President Park was assassinated by one of his close aides in October 1979, Kim had his civil and political rights restored.

After a few months of political unrest another group of soldiers seized power and Kim Dae-jung was thrown into prison, again, in May 1980 on charges of treason.

In November of that year, a military court sentenced him to death.

The sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment, and then to a 20-year term. In December 1982, his prison term was suspended, and he was allowed to travel to the United States.

Kim formed a new political party, the National Congress for New Politics, in 1995 and made his fourth bid for the presidency in 1997.

By that time the ruling Democratic Liberal Party had lost popularity because of corruption scandals in Pres.

Kim Young-Sam’s administration and the electorate’s outrage over the increasing instability of the South Korean economy, which was caught in the financial crisis sweeping through Southeast and East Asia.

Kim formed an electoral coalition with the conservative United Liberal Democrats led by Kim Jong-Pil, and in the presidential election of December 18, 1997, Kim Dae-Jung won a narrow victory over the ruling party’s candidate, Lee Hoi-Chang.

In 1998 direct talks between the two countries resumed after a four-year hiatus, and from June 13 to 15, 2000, Kim met with North Korean ruler Kim Jong Il.

During the historic summit, which marked the first meeting between leaders of North and South Korea, both sides agreed to work toward eventual reunification.


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