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Ex-Pres. Chun Doo-hwan pays a visit to ill Roh Tae-woo

Posted August. 13, 2014 06:22,   


On Aug. 10, 2009, former President Kim Yong-sam (YS) visited another former President Kim Dae-jung (DJ) who was hospitalized in Shinchon Severance Hospital, Seoul. They were both arch-rivals and allies to each other during their entire lives. The two Kims had separate ways before 1987 presidential election and had been on bad terms since then. YS told reporters right after arrival to the hospital, “(DJ) is in the longest rivalry and also in the longest cooperative relationship with me. It is unprecedented and one-of-its-kind relationship.”

In the patient’s room, YS couldn’t talk to DJ who was asleep and offered words of consolation to his wife, Lee Hee-ho. While leaving the room after 15 minutes, when reporters asked “Is it okay to see that both of you are reconciled together?” YS answered, “Yes, it is. Now is the time to mend the fences with him.” That was a declaration of reconciliation in 22 years. The reconciliation between the two Kims seemed to close the emotional gap between YS supporters and DJ advocates, and also console the people who joined forces with two Kims in the democratization movement.

News came out that the former President Chun Doo-hwan visited former President Roh Tae-woo, who has been fighting against prostate cancer over 10 years, in Roh’s house in Yeonhui-dong, Seoul, for two consecutive days. They were in quite close relationship - graduated the same class of the Korea Military Academy, staged a military coup together and became the 5th and 6th presidents respectively. However, they became estranged each other as Roh started cleaning up the vestiges of the previous government after his inauguration, which resulted in Chun being exiled to the Baekdam temple for two years. Chun and Roh were prosecuted and imprisoned under the charge of high treason in 1996 during the Kim Young-sam administration. But they had distances from each other after the imprisonment.

It was reported that Chun asked Roh in bed on Saturday, “Hey, do you recognize me?” Roh’s wife Kim Ok-sook said, “If you can see who he is, please blink your eye,” and Roh blinked.

Unlike that of the two Kims, there is no heart-touching echo from this belated reconciliation of the two former presidents, even though Chun and Roh are credited for more than a few achievements during their presidencies. Probably, it is because Chun and Roh shut their mouths tight and say no words of regret on their past wrongdoings such as giving orders to shoot civilians and devastating the constitutional order by using military force.