Roh memorial ceremony draws broad range of politicians

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Roh memorial ceremony draws broad range of politicians

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Top politicians attend the memorial ceremony on Monday to mark the 7th anniversary of former President Roh Moo-hyun’s death. The commemoration took place at the Bongha Village in Gimhae, South Gyeongsang. [SONG BONG-GEUN]

Top politicians on both sides of the aisle attended a memorial ceremony on Monday to mark the seventh anniversary of former President Roh Moo-hyun’s death.

The ceremony took place at the Bongha Village of Gimhae, South Gyeongsang, where Roh retired after completing his presidency in 2008. The former president killed himself in May 2009 after he and his family were investigated for corruption.

Leaders of the conservative Saenuri Party, the liberal Minjoo Party of Korea and the newly emerged People’s Party attended the service. The Blue House sent Hyun Ki-hwan, senior political secretary, to attend the ceremony.

Among the participants was Chung Jin-suk, floor leader of the Saenuri Party. “Whether we had the same thoughts or not, he was the leader of our country,” he said. “A president is a person of great history and great meaning. The time has come for us to establish a culture of respecting former presidents.”

The late president was an icon of liberalism who had a tough history among conservatives. With the support of the Grand National Party, the predecessor of the Saenuri Party, the National Assembly impeached Roh in 2004. The decision was overturned by the Constitutional Court later that year.

While followers of Roh showed a reconciliatory attitude toward Saenuri participants at the ceremony, the leaders of the People’s Party faced insults from Roh followers.

After Ahn Cheol-soo and Chun Jung-bae, co-chairmen of the People’s Party, arrived at the village around 1:30 p.m., a group of Roh followers rushed toward them, shouting expletives.

As tensions grew, Ahn and Chun were evacuated to the residence compound of the Roh family to avoid any further confrontations. The followers also tried to surround Park Jie-won, floor leader of the People’s Party, as he was momentarily left outside the compound.

Scuffles took place between the crowd and body guards, but no major incident was reported.

Moon Jae-in, former chairman of the Minjoo Party and the closest associate of Roh, attended the event, sitting next to Roh’s surviving family.

The memorial took place as Roh associates vowed to win the next presidential election. Moon, known as Roh’s political companion who served as his presidential chief of staff, ran in the 2012 race but was narrowly defeated by President Park Geun-hye.

As Moon vowed to take back the presidency from the conservative Saenuri Party, another Roh loyalist, South Chungcheong Governor Ahn Hee-jung, recently made public his presidential ambition.

In the April 13 general election, Roh associates also scored considerable victories. Twelve candidates who served in the Roh Blue House won their first terms to become rookie lawmakers. Joining forces with reelected Roh loyalists, they have become the largest faction in the largest party in the new National Assembly.

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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