Sunday, November 22, 2015

Former President of South Korea, Kim Young-sam, dies at age 87

Kim Young-sam, South Korea's former president, died of sepsis and heart failure on Sunday.  He was admitted to the Seoul National University Hospital with a fever on Friday.  Mr. Kim is credited with leading South Korea out of military rule.  He played a crucial role during the nation's transition from dictatorship to democracy.

Kim Young-sam was born in 1927.  During this time, South Korea was still a Japanese colony.  At the age of 27 he was elected to Parliament and was well known for his criticism of the dictator in power at the time, Park Chung-hee.  Mr. Park seized power in a coup in 1961 and cruelly silenced his opponents.  Before being assassinated in 1979, Mr. Park expelled Mr. Kim for his criticisms.  Soon after his assassination, Chun Doo-hwan, an army major general, engineered a coup resulting in another military dictator.

In 1992, Mr. Kim won the election becoming the first civilian leader in South Korea in over three decades.  He quickly purged a group of army officers who went by the name Hanahoe that regularly blackmailed and assaulted members of Parliament.  Soon after, he managed to convict and arrest Mr. Chun and Mr. Roh, Chun Doo-hwan's successor.  Another huge change Mr. Kim brought was his barring of owning back accounts under pseudonyms.  This was considered one of the most important landmarks in South Korea's fight against corruption.  Finally, Mr. Kim had persuaded President Bill Clinton to cancel the U.S.'s plan to bomb North Korea.  Mr. Kim had planned to meet North Korea's leader, Kim Il-sung determined to bring peace.  Unfortunately, two weeks before the first summit meeting between the two nations, Kim Il-sung died of heart failure and the summit was canceled.

Despite Kim Young-sam ending his presidency on a poor note, he is well respected for his role in South Korea's growth from dictatorship to democracy.


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