Ex-President Roh Tae-woo dies, aged 89

27-Oct-2021 Intellasia | Koreaherald | 5:02 AM Print This Post

Former President Roh Tae-woo, the country’s first directly elected president, died Tuesday at age 89, leaving behind a checkered past and unanswered questions surrounding his role in Korean history before and during his presidency.

Roh aides announced at around 2 p.m. on Tuesday that Roh, who served as the 13th president of South Korea from 1988 to 1993, died while receiving treatment at Seoul National University Hospital.

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 [Reuters]

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 [Reuters]

Born in Daegu in 1932, Roh later joined the South Korean Army as an enlisted soldier during the 1950-53 Korean War. He later served in key posts within the military and shifted to politics, holding several administrative posts with the help of the military’s power over the government.

Roh helped his predecessor Chun Doo-hwan, whom he befriended at the Korea Military Academy, as the de facto leader of South Korea by staging a coup against then-President Choi Kyu-hah in 1979. He also helped Chun lead soldiers down to Gwangju and slaughter civilians during the Gwangju Democratisation Movement in 1980.

Roh rose to the presidency after being picked as the presidential candidate of the ruling Democratic Justice Party that was headed by Chun, later winning the election thanks to largely divided votes between opposition candidates Kim Young-sam and Kim Dae-jung, both of whom would also serve as president later on.

During his term, Roh hosted the Seoul Olympics in 1988 after having played a key role in organising the international sports event in Korea as the chairperson of the Korean Olympic Committee.

Roh also unfolded democratic reforms as well as launching a foreign policy initiative dubbed “Nordpolitik,” which included South Korea reaching out to the traditional allies of North Korea in hopes of normalised diplomatic relations on the Korean Peninsula.

He held talks with Mikhail Gorbachev, president of the Soviet Union, during his visit to the United States in 1990 to end the official silence between the two countries that had lasted for 42 years. He also opened diplomatic relations with the Chinese government in 1992, effectively bringing an end to Korea’s 43 years of diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

Roh and Chun were arrested and stood trial in 1995 for receiving bribes from businesspeople while in office. They were also charged for mutiny and treason in connection to Chun’s coup and the Gwangju Democratisation Movement.

Roh was sentenced to 17 years in prison and forfeiture of over 260 billion won ($222 million today) for his crimes, but was pardoned in December 1997. He finished paying the forfeiture in September 2013

 

Category: Korea

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