중앙데일리

Facing bribery probe, ex-president takes life

May 25,2009
Scandal-plagued former South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun leapt from a mountain’s rocky cliff Saturday, ending his life but not the questions left behind. He was 62.

“Roh appeared to have jumped off a mountain around 6:40 a.m.,” Moon Jae-in, Roh’s former presidential chief of staff, said in a televised press conference shortly after the former president’s death. “He left a short note to his family.”

The South Gyeongsang Provincial Police issued an official statement yesterday detailing the incident and their investigation’s outcome. “Roh left his home around 5:50 a.m. with his bodyguard to hike up Mount Bonghwa in [Bongha] village,” the police said. “Around 6:45 a.m., he jumped from a 45-meter [147.6-foot] cliff called Owl’s Rock. He suffered serious head injuries and died at the Pusan National University Hospital in Yangsan.”

Park Eun-ha, one of Roh’s aides, soon discovered a suicide note left on Roh’s computer, authorities said. Roh’s niece’s husband, Jeong Jae-seong, a lawyer, printed the document and delivered it to police.

“We sent the chief of the cyber investigation unit and digital evidence analysts to the scene around 4:05 p.m. on Saturday after the discovery of the file,” police statement said.

“The file was first created around 5:21 a.m., and the document was saved once around 5:26 a.m. Roh made the final save of the file around 5:44 a.m.,” police said. “The 14-line will was headed, ‘Because of me, so many people are suffering.’”

The police also released Saturday the entire text of the will, in which the former president asked his family to cremate his body and to erect a small tombstone near his house.

Police yesterday flatly rejected speculations spreading among Internet users that the contents of the will was tampered with. “We have made public the will’s contents through a media briefing, and such speculation doesn’t deserve a single second of consideration,” Lee Un-gu, head of South Gyeongsang Provincial Police Agency, said yesterday at a press conference.

Roh’s family did not seek an autopsy, police said. “Based on the note left behind, the postmortem examination conducted with Roh’s aides’ presence, the testimony of Roh’s bodyguard who was with him at the time of the incident and the examination of the items collected at the site of the fall, we have concluded that Roh jumped off the cliff and died,” police said. “After consultation with the prosecution, we handed over the body to the family.”

The former president’s body was moved to Bongha Village Saturday evening, and a mourning altar was set up at the village’s community center.

A native of Gimhae, South Gyeongsang, Roh served as Korea’s president from 2003 to 2008. He had been a human rights attorney before his political career led him to a National Assembly seat representing Busan.

After being elected president in 2002, Roh was impeached in 2004, but the Constitutional Court rejected the legislative action, allowing him to complete his term.

Roh, his wife and children have been under intense pressure from prosecutors investigating bribery involving Park Yeon-cha, a Busan-based businessman and close Roh supporter. “I have no face to show to the people. I am sorry that I disappointed you,” a distraught Roh said in late April before facing questioning by prosecutors.


By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]






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