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South Korea Mourns Kim Dae Jung’s Death

Posted by: Ihlwan Moon on August 18, 2009

Former South Korean President Kim Dae Jung, who died on August 18 while being treated for pneumonia, epitomized three key values of the country in the past four decades: democracy, economic justice and reunification of the Korean peninsula. Winner of the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize, Kim is best remembered outside of Korea for his “Sunshine” engagement policy aimed at coaxing North Korea into joining the international community. But at home, it was his life-long fight against the military dictatorship and for democracy that elected him as the first president to be drawn from an opposition party in 1997.

Kim’s contribution to the economy isn’t small either. After taking over the country in the depth of the Asian financial crisis, he cleaned up corrupt practices of reckless overexpansion by the chaebol, family-controlled conglomerates, with easy money funneled by state-controlled banks. He also flung open the economy to foreign investors, while introducing accounting transparency and the basis of a welfare system for the poor.

Certainly he deserves respect for not giving up his conviction for freedom and reconciliation despite many ordeals. He survived a death sentence, torture and several assassination attempts, two exiles and a countless number of house arrests. And he never stopped speaking up against political oppression.

Kim, who died at 85, spent last years of his life in disappointment. Despite South Korean aid and goodwill gestures, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il never gave up his nuclear ambition. After he ended his term in 2003, Kim Dae Jung saw his two sons jailed for corruption. A parliamentary probe revealed that his government paid $500 million to North Korea shortly before his 2000 summit with Kim Jong Il. With the ailing North Korean leader bent on preparing for a succession of power to his son at all costs, it appears the reconciliation of the peninsula Kim Dae Jung hoped for won’t come true any time soon.

Reader Comments

Tony L

August 18, 2009 11:19 AM

BS. Kim Dae Joong clean up corruption? Are you kidding me? He raked in billions of dollars while he was in office. His nobel peace prize is a joke too. Who lobbies and bribes for the nobel peace prize! What an insult to mother teresa and dalai lama..


August 18, 2009 12:59 PM

The problem with Korea is its "Imperial Presidency" and unfortunately, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Even DJ wasn't immune to that. He also wasted billions in his "Sunshine Policy." But let's give him credit where it's due. Before he became the president, he did fight for freer society and freer economy against corrupt and violent military dictatorships. Heros are far and between in Korea because the nail that sticks out gets hammered down. He was a hero to many despite his shortcomings.

Former Korean

August 18, 2009 1:08 PM

Kim DJ helped North Korea with the sunshine policy. Then North Korea achieved its nuke status. And DJ got the nobel prize in the process.... how ironic....
He was a scumbag.


August 18, 2009 1:27 PM

He was a well respected president. Tony, you need to talk based on a fact. He did his best for the country


August 18, 2009 2:46 PM

If you think he's bad, then all nobel peace prize winners should fear no shame because inevitably with all due respect for your opinion I refuse to believe that those who voted him a nobel peace prize had reasons and checks and balances that would make an absurd selection from the list of prospects highly unlikely. Perhaps you confuse efforts of stealing from the rich to provide share with the poor a weakness or the method itself unethical but you must agree that it is not uncommon and his countrymen and our country pay our respect for his existence and what it overall stood for and accomlished in his lifetime.Well done and Rest in kim Dae-Jung!

Tony u kidding, right?

August 18, 2009 3:57 PM

An instult to Mother T and da lama? You need to watch an episode of Penn and Teller ---- holier than thou.

Both mother T and Monk DL are clowns, Gandhi too. Please, my dear dear indian censors, I threw in Gandhi with no hard feelings.

Former Korean

August 18, 2009 9:38 PM

Did somebody mention DJ and "hero" along the same lines? You are delusional my friend. DJ could talk the talk, but NOT walk the walk. History will not be friendly to DJ. In regards to "hero"....There is only one true national hero in the modern day Korea. That man is Park Jung Hee. Without him, Korea would be no different than today's Cambodia.

@Former Korean

August 19, 2009 7:39 PM

You are kidding yourself. Park Jung Hee is the traitor who sold Korean history to Comunist China. My grand fathers was defended of the name and sprit of the Ching Empire. Dismantling Korea's traditional society and his historians distorting history allowed to China to distort the history of Ching empire and my ancestors. He's the traitor!


August 21, 2009 1:44 AM

Well, Mr Park was originally trained in Manchuria which's ruled by Japanese and your honored ex-emperor Puyi, and was even awarded a medal by Puyi the majesty. Also he's assassinated by communist north korea although not succeeded. You should admire him buddy. Don't stand on wrong side.

DJ is Hero

August 21, 2009 4:36 AM

Believe it or not, lots of south koreans have been brainwashed by 3 major newspapers -Chosun, Choongang, and Donga ilbo- that they end up believing in incorrect knowledge on Kim Dae-jung. And that's the reason why comments on this report is so ridiculous and absurd. I agree that Kim dae-jung made few mistakes in his lifetime but he IS a hero if you closely examine his entire life history(and of course, if you're a Christian.)

De mortuis nil nisi bene

August 23, 2009 9:56 AM

A great man passed on. A giant in modern Korean history died. Born under Japanese rule, having seen his nation torn into two and fought military supression to finally succeed in saving his country from total meltdown during the Asian crisis. Men of his class appear only once in generations. He will be missed by his people. He lived a full life. RIP.


August 25, 2009 10:31 AM


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