December 5, 2022

South Korean leader Roh Tae-woo has died at the age of 88 while moving towards democracy

SEOUL – South Korea’s last military-backed president, Roh Dae-woo, who forged ties with communist enemies, has endured the country’s transition from dictatorship to democracy, but has been imprisoned for rebellion and corruption. He is 88 years old.

He was in the intensive care unit at Seoul National University Hospital. Roh died and the hospital said no further details were provided.

He was President from 1988 to 1993. Roh led South Korea through a turbulent period between military and civilian rule as an interim, and largely unpopular figure.

“He was a bridge between authoritarianism and democracy,” said Lee Chung-hee, an Emeritus professor at Hankuk University for Foreign Studies. “South Korea went through change without experiencing a bloody revolution.”

Roh Tae-woo was born on December 4, 1932, in Taekwondo, southeastern Korea, the son of a rural government official. Rowe died when he was seven years old. At the Korean Military Academy he met Sun Doo-hwan, the son of another poor family, and the two formed a friendship that would shape the future of their country.

The two and their allies from the southeastern province of Kyongsang spoke the same dialect and were bound by their regional prejudices, climbing the military ladder sponsored by the then-mighty Park Chung-hee. They pulled each other up by a secret club called Hanaho, which they created, which roughly meant “everyone, everyone’s association”.

In 1979 Mr. When Park was assassinated by his intelligence chief, a faction commander accused of guarding the border with North Korea, Mr. Mr. Roh, a prominent general and head of military intelligence at the time. Sunu diverted his forces in support. Dec. During the coup d’tat on December 12, 1979, Mr. Command as if Chun had seized power.

They sent tanks and paratroopers into the southwestern city of Guangzhou, where civilians arose in an armed uprising in May 1980. The resulting bloodshed marked the brutality of the southern army at the time, killing at least 191 people. 26 soldiers and police officers.

Mr. lasted until early 1988. During the reign of Mr. Sun Iron, Mr. Roh was the less important and loyal No. 2. He oversaw South Korea’s successful bid for the 1988 Olympics, overcoming major contradictions against rival Japan’s bid. In a memoir, he wrote that part of his winning strategy was to impress members of the International Olympic Committee by appointing Korean beauty queens as their personal companions at IOC meetings.

In 1987, Mr. Chun chose Mr Rowe as his ruling party’s presidential candidate. It effectively made him the next president – the country elected its president through an electoral college filled with pro-government representatives – until citizens staged major struggles demanding an end to military rule in Seoul and other cities.

To prevent a riot, Mr. Chun and Mr. Roh accepted demands for political reform, including holding popular elections. When opposition votes were split between two dissident candidates, Kim Young-sam and Kim Dae-jung, Mr. Roh won the match easily, and the two men who did not want military rule despised each other. Mr. Rowe’s victory made him the first directly elected president in 16 years.

Mr. Rowe presided. The 1988 Games were a huge success, despite North Korea’s attempts to bomb them. A South Korean passenger jet In 1987, “Eliminate Dictatorship!” Despite the protests of students chanting that and threw kerosene bombs.

Boldly, Mr. Roh proposed a “norm-political” policy of opening up diplomatic relations with countries such as the Soviet Union and China – which helped dissolve relations on the divided Korean Peninsula.

In 1991, the two Koreas joined the United Nations at the same time. They also signed an agreement to keep the peninsula nuclear-free, and since 2006 North Korea has signed an agreement to thwart its six nuclear weapons tests.

Mr. Mr. Roh, the hardline former generals who led the country before him. Park and Mr. A remarkably different with Chun. Laughing Mr. Portraits of Rowe climbed the walls of government offices. His friend Mr. who was deported to a Buddhist monastery for calling for him and his relatives to be punished for corruption. He allowed comedians to make fun of politicians, including Chun.

But he also became a host “TK Mafia” Daegu, former generals and technocrats from his hometown and the surrounding Kyongsang region, are powerful people who have filled important government and party positions. During his rule, police raided factories to break up workers’ strikes and arrested government critics, including dissidents returning from the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, to promote Korean integration.

“His rule was characterized by both military dictatorship and civilian presidency,” said Choi Jin, head of the impartial presidential leadership agency.

Mr. Roh’s tolerance for political opposition, his oscillations between rival factions within his party, and his gentle smile – all combined to give him the most memorable nickname: Mul Tae-woo, the Korean equivalent of “Roh is spineless.”

He repeatedly appealed to skeptics – “Please, believe me; I am just a normal person like you” – and after his resignation in 1993, when he and Mr. Sun were found to have returned hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes to their own coffers, he was ridiculed.

They were also convicted of treason and insurgency in 1996 for their roles in the coup and the Guangzhou massacre. Mr. Sunu was sentenced to death – the sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment – Mr. Roh was sentenced to 17 years in prison. Both were pardoned and released in December 1997.

Despite living in the same neighborhood in Seoul, the two friends never spoke to each other during their infamous leisure time. Mr. Chun would often go outside surrounded by his old colleagues, but Mr. Roh lived quietly, often forgotten by the people he led.

“Roh Tae-woo was an uncharacteristic president, he disappeared from popular memory,” said Mr. Choi said. “The South Koreans revolted against the dictators, but they want a leader with a strong character.”