Kim Dae Jung

Sunday, August 23, 2009 | |

Kim Dae Jung

Blogging should be more regular from here on out, now that I've got a decently fast Hackintosh up and running to process all my photos. I still have a lot to go through from our time in Cambodia before I got to Korea a few months ago, but I figure I have to start posting some of pictures from around Seoul sooner or later. So here's one from Saturday, when Jiksu (one of my local friends I've made here) and I went to downtown Seoul to pay our respects to Korea's former president who just died, Kim Dae Jung.

He's the second Korean ex-president to die this summer; the one who left office most recently, Roh Moo-hyun, jumped off a cliff in May after a series of scandals, including the collapse of his party (which had to reform under a new name) and an ongoing investigation into him and his family of allegations of bribery.

Kim Dae Jung, on the other hand, is almost universally revered as one of the founding fathers of Korea's current democratic republic, which, I only realized just now while reading his Wikipedia entry, is younger than I am. (I was born in March of 1987; Korea didn't have its first free elections until December of 1987.) Before he was president, as a dissident against the ruling authoritarian regime and leader of the opposition, he survived kidnappings and death sentences. And he's the guy who, as President, won the Nobel Peace Prize for holding a summit with Kim Jong-il in 2000 and normalizing South Korean diplomatic relations with the North. Although, from what I can tell, most people have since soured on the so-called "Sunshine Policy" (certainly every one of my students in debate class have!), his legacy as a longtime champion of Korea's democratic movement commands respect from even the most conservative Koreans (a category of which Jiksu is a self-proclaimed member).

He received a state funeral today, which Jiksu tells me is an honor usually only granted to sitting presidents, and was only the second such service in Korea's history. (President Roh didn't get one; the previous recipient was Park Chung-hee, a military dictator who, having held on to power by rigging his election against Kim Dae Jung, was assassinated in office in 1979 by his own intelligence director, who considered it an act for democracy.)