Roh Moo-hyun, President of the Republic of Korea, Died at 62

Dead, Roh Moo-hyun on the 23rd of May 2009 at the age of 62, he was the ninth President of the Republic of Korea (2003–2008).

Roh’s pre-presidential political career was focused on human rights advocacy for student activists in South Korea.

Roh’s election was notable for the arrival in power of a new generation of Korean politicians, the so-called 386 Generation, (i.e. people in their thirties when the term was coined, who had attended university in the 1980s, and who were born in the 1960s).

This generation had been veterans of student protests against authoritarian rule, and advocated a conciliatory approach towards North Korea, even at the expense of good relations with the USA.

Born on the 1st of September 1946, in Bongha village near Gimhae and Busan, in southeastern South Korea, his parents had three boys and two girls, and Roh was the youngest of his family.

In 1953, he entered Dae Chang elementary school. He received high grades, but was quite often absent from school to assist his parents.

In 1981, he defended students who had been tortured for suspicion of possession of contraband literature.

Following this he decided to become a human rights lawyer.

In early 2003, he was quoted as saying, “After that defense, my life was totally changed. At first, even I couldn’t believe that they had been tortured that harshly.

However, when I saw their horrified eyes and their missing toenails, my comfortable life as a lawyer came to an end.

I became a man that wanted to make a difference in the world.” With fellow human rights lawyers, he pointed out that this case was forged, then claimed that the National Security Act (South Korea) itself should be judged.

In 1990, Kim Young-sam merged his party with the Democratic Justice Party to form the Democratic Liberal Party, a forerunner of the Grand National Party.

Roh did not participate in the party and he criticized it as “betrayal against the democracy movement”.

In 1991, before the election of the national assembly, the Weekly Chosun posted an article that alleging that Roh was a politician with hidden wealth.

Roh sued the company for defamation and won, but lost the election for his seat.

Allegations of election law violations and economic mismanagement soon followed, and in March 2004 Roh was impeached by parliament, a move that was highly unpopular with the public.

Forced to temporarily step down, he was reinstated as president in May after the Constitutional Court overturned the impeachment.

Under the shadow of scandal for most of his term, Roh was unable to take advantage of the parliamentary majority that his party achieved in late 2004.

Continuing economic malaise in South Korea caused his poll numbers to drop to the single digits, and a North Korean nuclear test in 2006 was seen as a sign of failure for the soft diplomacy championed by Roh and his predecessor.