Ceremony honors Kim Dae-jung

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Ceremony honors Kim Dae-jung

Family, friends and lawmakers yesterday commemorated the fifth anniversary of the passing of late President Kim Dae-jung, paying tribute to his efforts to uphold democracy and ease strained inter-Korean relations, which earned him the Nobel Peace Prize at the height of his term.

Those in attendance at the ceremony, held at Seoul National Cemetery, included former Saenuri Party leader Hwang Woo-yea and current Chairman Kim Moo-sung, as well as former opposition leaders Kim Han-gill and Ahn Cheol-soo, who both resigned earlier this month following the opposition’s stunning defeat in the July 30 by-elections.

“It is so regrettable to see the many efforts put forth by my father that have yet to bear fruit,” Kim Hong-up, the late leader’s second son and a former lawmaker, said in a commemorative speech. “I believe in what my father said - that no matter how winding the road, history always progresses.”

The anniversary was observed in a bipartisan manner yesterday with all political parties issuing statements marking the commemoration, an apparent reflection of the impact of Kim’s democratic legacy.

“As a man of conscience, Kim was oppressed and persecuted in the struggle for democracy. And yet, he turned that sense of hatred and loathing into one for harmonious coexistence,” Saenuri Party leader Kim Moo-sung said before the ceremony at a supreme council meeting at the National Assembly.

During the commemoration, much attention was paid, in particular, to the wreath sent by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. On Sunday, Pyongyang’s Kim Yang-gon, director of the United Front Department on South Korea Policy, delivered the gift to Seoul officials at the Kaesong Industrial Complex.

The red ribbons tied to the wreath read, “In commemoration of former President Kim Dae-jung.”

The wreath given by the North Korean leader was placed directly across from the one presented by President Park Geun-hye, a move possibly indicative of the liberal bloc’s position on North Korean policy, especially its friendly attitude toward the Kim Jong-un regime.

Under the Sunshine Policy launched by the Kim Dae-jung government, South Korea attempted to engage North Korea through economic cooperation and humanitarian aid to persuade the country to open up to the outside world. That policy was later carried on by the administration of the late Roh Moo-hyun.

A wreath sent by former President Chun Doo Hwan, a strongman who ruled South Korea with an iron fist between 1980 and 1988, was also placed along with the North Korean leader’s tribute.

Under Chun’s military government, Kim Dae-jung was sentenced to death on sedition charges but later pardoned following international pressure.

The late president was a pro-democracy proponent who survived assassination and kidnapping attempts during the authoritarian governments of military strongmen Park Chung Hee - the father of current President Park Geun-hye - and Chun Doo Hwan.

In 1997, Kim was elected president, the first opposition member to win the seat, and opened a new chapter in inter-Korean relations with his Sunshine Policy.

He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2000 in recognition of his efforts to improve relations between the two Koreas, most notably for holding the first Seoul-Pyongyang summit in the North Korean capital that year.

Kim died in 2009 from complications of pneumonia. He was 85.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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