25 February 1998 – 25 February 2003
|Prime Minister|| Kim Jong-pil|
|Preceded by||Kim Young-Sam|
|Succeeded by||Roh Moo-hyun|
|Born|| 3 December 1925|
Haui-do, Sinan, Jeollanam-do, Korea under Japanese occupation
|Died|| 18 August 2009 (aged 83)|
Seoul, South Korea
|Political party||Millennium Democratic|
|Winner of the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize|
|Revised Romanization||Gim Dae-jung|
Kim Dae-jung (3 December 1925 – 18 August 2009) was President of South Korea from 1998 to 2003, and the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize recipient. A Roman Catholic since 1957, he has been called the "Nelson Mandela of Asia" for his long-standing opposition to authoritarian rule.
The son of a middle-class farmer, Kim was born in Mokpo in what was then the Jeolla province; the city is now in South Jeolla province. Kim graduated from Mokpo Commercial High School in 1943 at the top of the class. After working as a clerk for a Japanese-owned shipping company during the Japanese occupation of Korea, he became its owner and became very rich. Kim escaped Communist capture during the Korean War.
Kim first entered politics in 1954 during the administration of Korea's first president, Syngman Rhee. Although he was elected as a representative for the National Assembly in 1961, a military coup led by Park Chung-hee, who later assumed dictatorial powers, voided the elections. He was able to win a seat in the House in the subsequent elections in 1963 and 1967 and went on to become an eminent opposition leader. As such, he was the natural opposition candidate for the country's presidential election in 1971. He nearly defeated Park, despite several handicaps on his candidacy which were imposed by the ruling regime.
A very talented orator, Kim could command unwavering loyalty among his supporters. His staunchest support came from the Jeolla region, where he reliably garnered upwards of 95% of the popular vote, a record that has remained unsurpassed in South Korean politics.
Kim was almost killed in August 1973, when he was kidnapped from a hotel in Tokyo by KCIA agents in response to his criticism of President Park's yushin program, which granted enormous powers to the president. Although Kim returned to Seoul alive, he was banned from politics and imprisoned in 1976 for having participated in the proclamation of an anti-government manifesto and sentenced for five years in prison, which was reduced to house arrest in 1978.
Kim was reinstated in 1979 after Park was assassinated. However in 1980, Kim was arrested and sentenced to death on charges of sedition and conspiracy in the wake of another coup by Chun Doo-hwan and a popular uprising in Gwangju, his political stronghold. With the intervention of the United States government, the sentence was commuted to 20 years in prison and later he was given exile to the U.S. Kim temporarily settled in Boston and taught at Harvard University as a visiting professor to the Center for International Affairs, until he chose to return to his homeland in 1985. During his period abroad, he authored a number of opinion pieces in leading Western newspapers that were sharply critical of his government.
Pope John Paul II sent a letter to then-South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan on 11 December 1980, asking for "clemency" for Kim, a Catholic, who had been sentenced to death a week before. The National Archives of Korea revealed the contents of the letter at the request of the "Kwangju Ilbo," the local daily newspaper in Gwangju (Kwangju).
Road to the presidency
Kim was again put under house arrest upon his return to Seoul, but resumed his role as one of the principal leaders of the political opposition. When Chun Doo-hwan succumbed to the popular demand in 1987 and allowed the first democratic presidential election to take place since the 1972 coup, Kim Dae-jung and Kim Young-sam both ran. As a result, the opposition vote was split in two, with Kim Young-sam receiving 28% and Kim Dae-jung 27% of the vote. The ex-general Roh Tae-woo — Chun Doo-hwan's hand-picked successor — won easily with 36.5% of the popular vote.
In 1992, Kim made yet another failed bid for the presidency, this time solely against Kim Young-sam, who won as a candidate for the ruling party. Many thought Kim Dae-jung's political career was effectively over when he took a hiatus from politics and departed for the United Kingdom to take a position at Clare Hall, Cambridge University as a visiting scholar. However, in 1995 he announced his return to politics and began his fourth quest for the presidency.
The situation became favorable for him when the public revolted against the incumbent government in the wake of the nation's economic collapse in the Asian financial crisis just weeks before the presidential election. Allied with Kim Jong-pil, he defeated Lee Hoi-chang, Kim Young-sam's successor, in the election held on 18 December 1997, and was inaugurated as the eighth President of South Korea on 25 February 1998. This inauguration marked the first time in Korean history that the ruling party peacefully transferred power to a democratically elected opposition victor. The election was marred with controversy, as two candidates from the ruling party split the conservative vote (38.7% and 19.2% respectively), enabling Kim to win with a 40.3% of the popular vote. Kim's chief opponent, Lee Hoi Chang, was a former Supreme Court Justice and had graduated at the top of his class from Seoul National University School of Law. Lee was widely viewed as elitist and his candidacy was further damaged by charges that his sons dodged mandatory military service. Kim's education in contrast was limited to vocational high school, and many Koreans sympathized with the many trials and tribulations that Kim had endured previously.
The preceding presidents Park Chung Hee, Chun Doo-hwan, Roh Tae-woo, and Kim Young-sam originated from the Gyeongsang region, which became wealthier since 1945 partly due to the policies of the Park, Chun and Roh's regimes. Kim Dae-jung was the first president to serve out his full term who came from the Jeolla region in the southwest, an area that had been neglected and less developed, at least partly because of discriminatory policies of previous presidents. Kim's administration included more individuals from the Jeolla province, leading to charges of reverse discrimination. However, the actual numbers of the ministers and administrators of Kim Dae Jung's government from Jeolla region indicate that they were not over-represented.
Kim Dae-jung took office in the midst of the economic crisis that hit South Korea in the final year of Kim Young-sam's term. He vigorously pushed economic reform and restructuring recommended by the International Monetary Fund, in the process significantly altering the landscape of South Korean economy. After the economy shrank by 5.8 percent in 1998, it grew 10.2 percent in 1999. In effect, his policies were to make for a fairer market by holding the powerful chaebol (conglomerates) accountable, e.g., greater transparency in accounting practices. State subsidies to large corporations were dramatically cut or dropped.
North Korea policy
His policy of engagement with North Korea has been termed the Sunshine Policy. He moved to begin détente with the totalitarian regime in North Korea, which culminated in a historic summit meeting in 2000 in Pyongyang with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. This began a now decade-old process of frustrating, but continuing direct contact with Pyongyang. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for these efforts. After the 2000 Summit, the historic event was tainted to a degree by revelations that at least several hundred million dollars had been paid to Pyongyang. The payment does not destroy the value of the dramatic breakthrough negotiation. The North Korean leader, however, never kept his promise to reciprocate by visiting South Korea. North Korea has not reduced the heavy presence of troops in the De-Militarized Zone (DMZ) and has continued to work on developing nuclear weapons, which it tested in October 2006.
Relationship with former dictators
After Kim achieved the presidency and moved into the Blue House, there was understandable uncertainty and considerable speculation about how he would handle the office. He had been sentenced to death by Chun Doo Hwan. Chun and his successor Roe Tae Woo had been sentenced by Kim Dae Jung's predecessor President Kim Young Sam. Kim Dae Jung pardoned Chun.
During his presidency, he successfully shepherded South Korea's economic recovery, brought in a new era of economic transparency and fostered a greater role of South Korea in the world stage, including the FIFA World Cup, jointly hosted by Korea and Japan in 2002. Kim completed his 5-year presidential term in 2003 and was succeeded by Roh Moo-hyun. A presidential library at Yonsei University was built to preserve Kim's legacy, and there is a convention center named after him in the city of Gwangju, the Kim Dae-jung Convention Center.
Kim actively called for restraint against the North Koreans for detonating a nuclear weapon and defended the continued Sunshine Policy towards Pyongyang to defuse the crisis. He also received an honorary doctorate at the University of Portland on 17 April 2008 where he delivered his speech, "Challenge, Response, and God."
Kim's presidential legacy is largely positive. He is credited for forwarding democratic reforms and navigating Korea through the 1997-1998 financial crisis
Kim died on 18 August 2009 at 13:43 KST, at Severance Hospital of Yonsei University in Seoul. The cause of death was given as multiple organ dysfunction syndrome. An interfaith state funeral was held for former President Kim Dae-jung on 23 August 2009 in front of the National Assembly Building, with a procession leading to the Seoul National Cemetery where he was interred according to Catholic traditions. Former President Kim was the second person in modern Korean history to be given a State Funeral after Park Chung-hee.
- Liberalism in South Korea
- Kidnapping of Kim Dae-jung
- North-South presidential summit corruption allegations
- South Korean Presidential Election, 1997
- ↑ "Former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung Dies at 85". Jakarta Globe. 2009-08-18. http://thejakartaglobe.com/home/former-south-korean-president-kim-dae-jung-dies-at-85/324601. Retrieved 2009-10-24.
- ↑ Obituary: Kim Dae-jung." BBC News. 18 August 2009. Retrieved 7 November 2009.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 "Kim Dae-jung: Dedicated to reconciliation". CNN. 14 June 2001. http://archives.cnn.com/2001/WORLD/asiapcf/east/06/12/bio.kim.daejung/. Retrieved 18 August 2009.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 "Kim Dae Jung". Encyclopedia Britannica. 2009. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/317874/Kim-Dae-Jung?source=RSSBTH20090818. Retrieved 18 August 2009.
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 "Kim Dae-jung - Biography". The Nobel Foundation. 2000. http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/2000/dae-jung-bio.html. Retrieved 18 August 2009.
- ↑ Choe, Sang-hun (18 August 2009). "Kim Dae-jung, 83, Ex-President of South Korea, Dies". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/19/world/asia/19kim.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&pagewanted=all. Retrieved 18 August 2009.
- ↑ In the early 1980s Kim described this "intervention" at an Annual General Meeting of Amnesty International-USA. He was bound and naked, on the floor of a room with other dissidents awaiting helicopter rides out over the Sea of Japan where they would "disappear." An US embassy official walked in, pointed to him, and said "Him, not yet."
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 "Board of Advisors - Kim Dae-jung". The Oxford Council on Good Governance. undated. http://ocgg.org/index.php/643/0/. Retrieved 18 August 2009.
- ↑ John Paul II saved life of Korean President Kim Dae-jung
- ↑ "Opposition boycott shadows South Korea's new president". CNN. 25 February 1998. http://www.cnn.com/WORLD/9802/24/s.korea.wrap/index.html. Retrieved 18 August 2009.
- ↑ "1997 South Korean Presidential Election". University of California, Los Angeles - Center for East Asian Studies. 1998. http://www.isop.ucla.edu/eas/statistics/kor-pres.htm.
- ↑ "South Korea's Sunshine policy strikes back" http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Korea/JE07Dg01.html
- ↑ "Former S. Korean President Kim Dae-Jung Dies". The Seoul Times. 18 August 2009. http://theseoultimes.com/ST/?url=/ST/db/read.php?idx=8717. Retrieved 18 August 2009.
- ↑ Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times, "Former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung Dies." 
- Official Nobel page for Kim
- Obituary: Kim Dae-jung
- Kim Dae-jung Presidential Library
- Kim Dae-jung - Daily Telegraph obituary
- BBC article on his legacy
- S Korea’s Ex-President Kim Dae-jung Dies
- Obituary by the Associated Press
|President of South Korea|
| Succeeded by|
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