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Important personalitiesBack

Kim Dae-Jung3.12.1925

Wikipedia (16 Jan 2014, 10:17)

Kim Dae-jung (Korean pronunciation: [kimdɛdʑuŋ]; 3 December 1925 – 18 August 2009) was the eighth President of the Republic of Korea from 1998 to 2003, and the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize recipient. He came to be called the "Nelson Mandela of Asia" for his long-standing opposition to authoritarian rule and for his Sunshine Policy towards North Korea.


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 opposition. When Chun Doo-hwan succumbed to the popular demand in 1987 and allowed the country's first honest presidential election, Kim Dae-jung and Kim Young-sam both ran, despite an initial promise to unite behind one candidate. As a result, the opposition vote was split in two, and ex-general Roh Tae-woo – Chun Doo-hwan's hand-picked successor – won with only 36.5% of the popular vote. Kim Young-sam receiving 28% and Kim Dae-jung 27% of the vote.

In 1992, Kim made yet another failed bid for the presidency, this time solely against Kim Young-sam, who had merged his party with the ruling Democratic Justice Party to form the Democratic Liberal Party (which eventually became the Grand National 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 designated successor, in the election held on 18 December 1997. When he was sworn in as the eighth President of South Korea on 25 February 1998, it 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 only 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.


Post-presidency

Kim 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."

The Wikileaks data reveals that the US Embassy in Seoul described Kim as "South Korea's first left-wing president" to the American government on his day of death.

   
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