Roh honored at memorial

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Roh honored at memorial

It was a devastating moment that few Koreans will forget when the news broke that former President Roh Moo-hyun had committed suicide by jumping from a cliff. Yesterday marked the fifth anniversary of his death.

In remembrance of the late statesman, a memorial service was held yesterday as his family, together with supporters and high-profile politicians, gathered in his hometown of Bongha Village in Gimhae, South Gyeongsang. More than 3,000 people came together to honor the former president.

Those present included Kim Han-gill and Ahn Cheol-soo, co-chairmen of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD), floor leader Park Young-sun and Representative Moon Jae-in.

Moon, one of Roh’s closet aides who served as a former chief of staff under his administration, read a memorial address on behalf of supporters.

“As Roh always emphasized, our society should put people first,” Moon said. “But Korea now is far from fulfilling the idea. This is why I really miss Roh.”

Moon, who lost his presidential bid to President Park Geun-hye in 2012, went on to question the government’s competence and willingness to take responsibility.

“The government’s response to the ferry disaster reflects its disregard for the people as well as safety and responsibility,” he continued. “The government should take responsibility for the abundance of death in the disaster.”

The Sewol ferry accident on April 16 left more than 300 people dead or missing after the ship suddenly capsized in waters off the southwestern coast. It is considered Korea’s worst maritime disaster, and the government is still grappling with the aftermath of the crisis.

In his address, Moon also called for reflection. “The ferry disaster is also the result of corruption and immorality that puts profits and self-interests before everything,” he said.

Following his speech, a video clip featuring the late president was presented. Roh’s family members, wife Kwon Yang-sook and son Roh Gun-ho, lowered their heads and wept along with others in the crowd.

But the participants weren’t just confined to opposition lawmakers.

Lawmaker Won Yoo-choel of the ruling Saenuri Party attended the ceremony, as did Park Joon-woo, the president’s senior secretary for political affairs. The memorial service ended with a floral tribute being brought to the altar.

Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon also paid tribute to Roh through a post on his blog.

“I remember that he always longed for a society where principals and common sense existed side by side and in which people were respected first,” he said. “Although he passed away, his words will remain in our hearts.”

The late Roh had a tumultuous career as a politician, though he attracted a number of supporters and political associates. At the time of his death, the 62-year-old was under investigation for allegedly receiving millions of dollars’ worth of bribes from a businessman while in office.

BY PARK EUN-JEE [ejpark@joongang.co.kr]

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