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August 25 2009 | SOUTH KOREA

South Korea

Kim Dae-jung, 83, Ex-President of South Korea, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, two times sentenced to death in the past, dies.

 
printable version

Ansa

COREA SUD: MORTO KIM DAE-JUNG, PREMIO NOBEL PER LA PACE, EX PRESIDENTE SUD - COREANO, PALADINO DI PACE E DEMOCRAZIA. VENNE CONDANNATO DUE VOLTE A MORTE.

 SEUL - La Corea del Sud piange il suo paladino di democrazia e diritti civili: l'ex presidente Kim Dae-jung, premio Nobel per la Pace nel 2000, è scomparso a Seul a causa delle complicazioni di una grave polmonite. Politico dal forte carisma, Kim, 85 anni, era stato ricoverato a metà luglio per problemi respiratori e, di fronte al rapido peggioramento della salute, era stato sottoposto a terapia intensiva e a un intervento chirurgico. La figura di Kim Dae-jung è indelebilmente legata alla storia delle battaglie per i diritti civili, agli sforzi per il riavvicinamento delle due Coree divise dalla guerra del 1950-53, e al compimento del processo democratico dopo la lunga fase delle giunte militari.

 Nato nel 1924 in una piccola isola nella provincia di Jeolla, quando la penisola era sotto il dominio coloniale del Giappone, Kim fu una figura prominente del movimento democratico tra gli anni Settanta e Ottanta, opponendosi ai regimi succedutisi dopo la fine del conflitto intercoreano. La lotta per i valori democratici fece di Kim l'icona delle battaglie anti-regime, tanto che l'apparato di potere tentò di fermarlo con ogni mezzo con incarcerazioni (7 anni di prigione dura, più arresti domiciliari), torture e persino un rapimento, messo in atto in un hotel di Tokyo nel 1973 dai servizi segreti di Seul. Kim, presidente del Paese asiatico dal 1998 al 2003, fu il primo leader sudcoreano esponente di un partito di opposizione a conquistare la Blue House, la sede della carica istituzionale e politica più alta della Corea del Sud. Fu, durante il mandato, promotore ("senza dubbi e perplessità", come disse egli stesso) della nuova stagione di dialogo con il regime comunista del Nord, lanciando la sunshine policy, "la politica del raggio di sole", che portò nel 2000 alla storica distensione tra i due paesi con il vertice di Pyongyang (il primo in assoluto tra le due Coree) tra lo stesso Kim Dae-jung e il leader comunista Kim Jong-il.

 L'ex presidente non ha mai smesso di credere alla "assoluta necessità" di ravvicinare le due Coree e fino all'ultimo ha continuato a richiamare i leader sudcoreani per insistere sulla strada del dialogo con Pyongyang: in un'intervista rilasciata alla Bbc appena il 10 luglio, pochi giorni prima del ricovero, Kim ha criticato duramente la politica 'senza sconti' verso il Nord dell'attuale presidente Lee Myung-bak, invitando allo stesso tempo gli Stati Uniti a "dare un'altra chance" al regime attraverso il dialogo. Perdiamo un grande uomo politico", ha commentato Lee, mentre messaggi di cordoglio sono giunti da tutto il mondo e il segretario generale dell'Onu, Ban Ki-moon, ha preannunciato una visita all'ospedale dove Kim si è spento, come atto d'omaggio a "un leader eccezionale di pace e democrazia".

 

New York Times

SOUTH KOREA - Kim Dae-jung, 83, Ex-President of South Korea, Dies

Kim Dae-jung, a dissident who survived a death sentence and an assassination attempt by military dictators before winning the South Korean presidency and receiving a Nobel Peace Prize, died on Tuesday. He was 83.

Mr. Kim had been under treatment for pneumonia since July 13 and died of heart failure caused by internal organ dysfunctions," said Park Chang-il, president of Severance Hospital. Mr. Kim is survived by his wife, Lee Hee-ho  and 3 sons.

As president from 1998 till 2003, Mr. Kim was the 1st opposition leader to take power in South Korea.

Once vilified by his rivals as a Communist, Mr. Kim flew to Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, in 2000 to meet that nation's leader, Kim Jong-il, in the first summit meeting between the Koreas. That meeting led to an unprecedented détente on the divided Korean Peninsula, which remains technically at war because no peace treaty was signed at the end of the Korean War in 1953.

Under Mr. Kim's "sunshine policy," the 2 Koreas connected roads and railways across their shared border. They jointly built an industrial park. 2 million South Koreans visited a North Korean mountain resort. And in a scene televised worldwide, aging Koreans separated by the war a half century ago tearfully hugged one another in temporary family reunions.

"Through his political dedication and persecution, he has come to symbolize South Korea's democratization," Kang Won-taek, a political scientist at Soongsil University in Seoul, said Tuesday. "He also broke longstanding taboos in South Korea — he led the liberals to the fore of South Korean politics after decades of conservative rule, and he changed North Korea's status among South Koreans from an enemy to be vilified to someone that can coexist with the South and can be engaged."

But Mr. Kim "never overcame the limits" of an old-style South Korean political boss who had depended on and stoked regionalism and "privately owned political parties," which he created and demolished for his own political gains, Mr. Kang said.

Forced to use a wheelchair and shuttled in and out of hospitals for treatment of pneumonia, Mr. Kim spent his last years lamenting his crumbling legacy. Tired of giving billions of dollars of aid and trade to the Communist North but getting little in return, South Koreans in 2007 abandoned the policies of Mr. Kim and his successor, Roh Moo-hyun, by electing Lee Myung-bak, a conservative leader who promised a tougher stance on Pyongyang.

Inter-Korean relations chilled as North Korea tested nuclear weapons, first in 2006 and again in May, and as the United States, South Korea and Japan led the call for tighter sanctions on North Korea. The government in Pyongyang retreated into belligerent isolation after years of hesitant steps toward openness, though Mr. Kim’s critics have dismissed those earlier gestures as a mere ploy by the North to wring more aid from the South. Mr. Kim became a symbol of the South Korean struggle for democracy and the dream of reconciliation, and eventual reunification, with North Korea. When the Nobel Committee awarded him the Peace Prize in 2000, it was in recognition of his struggle as a pro-democracy campaigner as well as his vision in overcoming five decades of mistrust and hostility to engineer the Korean summit meeting.

He was often praised by his Western supporters as the "Nelson Mandela of Asia," although Mr. Kim had a more checkered reputation among his own people  

Mr. Kim was born on Dec. 3, 1925, to a farming family at Haeuido, a small island that was part of Cholla Province in the southwest, a region scorned by other presidents who hailed from the rival Kyongsang Province in the southeast.

After attending a vocational high school, Mr. Kim dabbled in running a shipping company and a newspaper. In 1961, on his 5th try, he was elected to the National Legislature. A week later, Maj. Gen. Park Chung-hee staged a coup, the beginning of his 18-year iron-fisted rule.

A skilled rabble-rouser who spoke for political freedom and for the downtrodden, Mr. Kim quickly emerged as an opposition leader and Mr. Park's nemesis, especially after he won 45 % of the vote running against the incumbent dictator in his 1st presidential try in 1971.

His image as a persecuted dissident expanded abroad in 1973, when agents from Mr. Park's notorious spy agency, known at the time as the K.C.I.A., kidnapped Mr. Kim from a hotel room in Tokyo, where he was leading an exile movement for democracy in South Korea.

He later said his kidnappers had attached a weight to him aboard a boat and were about to throw him into the sea when the United States government intervened. 5 days later, he was dumped, shaken and bruised, at the gate of his Seoul home and was placed under house arrest.

The harsher Mr. Park's rule became, the more Mr. Kim's popularity grew — especially in Cholla, where he was able to gain up to 95 % of the votes in elections. It was this regional loyalty that allowed him to make a comeback after each of his three failed attempts for the presidency.

Mr. Kim’s chance appeared to have come when Mr. Park's disgruntled spy chief assassinated the dictator in 1979. But another general, Chun Doo-hwan, seized power in another coup and arrested Mr. Kim and other leading dissidents. When people in Kwangju, the central city of Cholla, rose up, the junta sent in tanks and paratroopers. More than 200 protesters were killed, and Mr. Kim was sentenced to death on sedition charges.

Again the United States intervened. Under a deal with the Reagan administration, Mr. Chun let Mr. Kim board a plane to the United States in 1982. 3 years later, he returned home, escorted by American politicians, but was placed under house arrest.

Eventually, it was not the powerful friends he made in Washington, and not even the unconditional support he commanded in Cholla, that helped him reach the presidential Blue House in 1998, his fourth run. The Asian financial crisis helped him gain the presidency, as South Koreans voted against the often corrupt conservative establishment that had ruled South Korea almost continuously, since the Korean War.

Mr. Kim reshaped the economy by cleaning up debt-ridden banks and conglomerates. But he spent most of his energy on building reconciliation with North Korea, carrying out his lifelong belief that South Korea could prod the North toward openness and reduce the strain of eventual unification by first promoting gradual economic integration with injections of aid and investment.

His best moments came in June 2000, when Kim Jong-il hugged him at the Pyongyang airport and escorted him through the Communist capital, where hundreds of thousands were mobilized in their holiday best to wave flowers at the visitor from the South.

Mr. Kim spent his last months in office in a grim mood, however. The North Korean leader never kept his promise to make a return visit to Seoul. Nor did he give up his nuclear program. 2 of Mr. Kim's sons were sent to prison for corruption. And a special investigator with a parliamentary mandate found that Mr. Kim's government had helped funnel $500 million to North Korea in dubious business deals shortly before the 2000 summit meeting, fueling opposition charges that he had "bribed" the Communist leader and strengthened his chances to win the peace prize.

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