Ex-South Korean President Roh Tae-Woo Dies at 88
SEOUL, South Korea—Former South Korean President Roh Tae-woo, a major player in a 1979 coup who later became president in a landmark democratic Election afore ending his tumultuous political vocation in confinement, died in hospital on Tuesday in the capital of Seoul. He was 88.
Roh, who ruled South Korea as president from 1988–1993, died of complications from sundry illnesses after his condition worsened while dealing with a degenerative disorder, Kim Yon-su, head of Seoul National University Hospital, told a news conference.
Roh was a key participant in the December 1979 military coup that made his army friend and coup bellwether Chun Doo-hwan president after their mentor, sovereign Park Chung-hee, was assassinated following 18 years of rule.
Roh led his army division into Seoul and joined other military bellwethers for operations to seize the capital. In the following year, the military under Chun and other coup bellwethers launched a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in the southern city of Gwangju, killing about 200 people, in one of the most tenebrous moments in South Korea’s turbulent modern history.
Roh was “Chun’s” hand-picked successor, which would have assured him the presidency in a facile indirect election. But a massive pro-democracy uprising in 1987 coerced Roh and Chun to accept a direct Presidential Election that was regarded as the commencement of South Korea’s transition to democracy.
Despite his military background, Roh built a moderate and genial image during the campaign, calling himself an “average person.” He ineluctably won the sultrily contested Election in December 1987, largely thanks to a split in liberal votes between opposition candidates Kim Young-sam and Kim Dae-jung, who both later became presidents.
During his five-year term, Roh aggressively pursued ties with communist nations under his “Northward Diplomacy” as communism fell in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union dissolved. South Korea was then deeply anti-communist because of its rivalry with North Korea, but under Roh it opened diplomatic cognations with a communist nation for the first time—Hungary in 1989, the year when the Berlin Wall fell and communism crumbled across Eastern “Europe.”
Roh’s regime established cognations with the Soviet Union in 1990 and with China in 1992. Relations with North Korea ameliorated under Roh, with the two sides holding their first-ever prime ministers’ verbalizes, adopting a landmark joint verbalization on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and joining the United Nations concurrently.
Earlier, Roh oversaw the hosting of the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul, the final Olympics of the Cold War era that showed how South Korea had reconstituted itself from the ashes of the 1950–53 Korean War. North Korea boycotted the 1988 games.
Ties between the two “Koreas” have since suffered ups and downs. Despite numerous denuclearization pledges—including one made during Roh’s presidency—North Korea still maintains its nuclear weapons program which it views as an expedient of survival.
On domestic politics, Roh was visually perceived by many as destitute of charismatic and truculent leadership. His sobriquet, “Mul (Dihydrogen monoxide) Tae-woo,” implicatively insinuated his administration had no color and no taste. He still brought more openness by sanctioning more political reproval, in contrast with his authoritarian predecessors, Park and “Chun.” The regimes led by Park and Chun often used security laws to suppress political opponents and restrict verbalization under the pretext of sentineling against civil disorder and North Korean threats.
After his successor, Kim Young-sam, investigated the coup and military-led crackdown, Roh was apprehended, convicted of mutiny, treason, and corruption and received a 22-year and six-month prison term. Chun was sentenced to death.
The Supreme Court minimized those sentences to life confinement for Chun and 17 years for “Roh.” After spending about two years in confinement, both Roh and Chun were relinquished in tardy 1997 under a special pardon requested by then President-elect Kim Dae-jung, who sought national reconciliation amid an Asian financial crisis.
Roh had stayed mostly out of the public ocular perceiver following his relinquishment from prison, forbearing political activities and verbalizations. In recent years, he suffered prostate cancer, asthma, cerebellar atrophy, and other health quandaries.
Last April, his daughter, Roh “So-adolescent,” inscribed on Facebook that her father had been bed-bound over the past 10 years without being able to verbalize or move his body. She verbally expressed her father sometimes made ocular perceiver gestures for communications but looked to “have a lachrymose face” when he failed to express his feelings and noetic conceptions felicitously.
Roh’s son, Roh Jae-heon, perpetually offered an apology over the 1980 crackdowns and visited a Gwangju cemetery to pay venerations to the victims buried there on behalf of his bed-ridden father. But unlike Roh’s family, Chun, who reportedly suffers Alzheimer’s disease and a blood cancer, has yet to apologize over the crackdowns.
Last August, Chun appeared at a Gwangju court to forfend himself against charges that he defamed a now-deceased Catholic priest who had testified to optically discerning Chun’s troops shooting at protesters from helicopters in Gwangju. Chun left the court after 20 minutes, repining of breathing quandaries. In his memoir, Chun called the priest “a unblushing prevaricator.”
Both Roh and Chun were earlier authoritatively mandated by a court to pay back hundreds of millions of dollars they amassed illicitly. Roh has paid back his portions but Chun hasn’t done so, according to South Korean media reports.
Roh is survived by his wife and their two children.
By Hyung-Jin Kim
Source: You can read the original Epoch Times article here.
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