Roh Tae-woo (Korean노태우; Hanja盧泰愚; Korean pronunciation: [no.tʰɛ̝.u]; 4 December 1932[2][3][4][a] – 26 October 2021) was a South Korean politician and army general who served as the sixth president of South Korea from 1988 to 1993. He was a leader of the Democratic Justice Party and was known for having passed the June 29 Declaration in 1987.

Roh Tae-woo
노태우
盧泰愚
Roh Tae-woo presidential portrait.jpg
Official portrait, 1988
6th President of South Korea
In office
25 February 1988 – 24 February 1993
Prime MinisterLee Hyun Jae
Kang Young Hoon
Ro Jai-bong
Shin Hyon Hwak
Chung Won Shik
Hyun Soong-jong
Preceded byChun Doo-hwan
Succeeded byKim Young-sam
President of the Democratic Liberal Party
In office
9 May 1990 – 28 August 1992
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byKim Young-sam
President of the Democratic Justice Party
In office
5 August 1987 – 2 February 1990
Acting: 10 July 1987 – 5 August 1987
Preceded byChun Doo-hwan
Succeeded byPosition abolished
President of the Seoul Organizing of the Olympic Games
In office
12 August 1984 – 7 May 1986
LeaderJuan Antonio Samaranch
Preceded byPeter Ueberroth
Succeeded byPark Seh-jik
Chair of the Seoul Olympic Organizing Committee
In office
11 July 1983 – 7 May 1986
Preceded byKim Yong-shik
Succeeded byPark Seh-jik
Minister of Home Affairs
In office
28 April 1982 – 6 July 1983
PresidentChun Doo-hwan
Preceded bySuh Jong-hwa
Succeeded byChu Yong-bok
Minister of Sports
In office
20 March 1982 – 28 April 1982
PresidentChun Doo-hwan
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byLee Won-kyong
Personal details
Born(1932-12-04)4 December 1932[a]
Tatsujō-gun, Taikyū, Keishōhoku-dō, Japanese Korea
(now Dong-gu, Daegu, North Gyeongsang Province, South Korea)
Died26 October 2021(2021-10-26) (aged 88)
Seoul, South Korea
Resting placePaju Unification Hill
Paju
Political partyIndependent
Other political
affiliations
Democratic Justice (1980–1990)
Democratic Liberal (1990–1992)
Spouse(s)
(m. 1959)
ChildrenRoh Soh-yeong (daughter)
Roh Jae-heon (son)
Alma materKorea Military Academy (B.S.)
Signature
Military service
Branch/serviceRepublic of Korea Army
Years of service1950–1981
RankGeneral
Commands9th Infantry Division, Capital Defense Command, Defense Security Command
Battles/warsKorean War
Vietnam War
Korean name
Hangul
노태우
Hanja
盧泰愚
Revised RomanizationNo Tae-u
McCune–ReischauerNo T'aeu
Pen name
Hangul
용당
Hanja
庸堂
Revised RomanizationYongdang
McCune–ReischauerYongdang

Early life and educationEdit

Roh was born on 4 December 1932 in Daegu.[5] His ancestry could be traced from Jinan, Shandong.[6] He is the 15th generation descendant of No Sa-sin (노사신;盧思愼) who is a civil minister and scholar during early Joseon period. No Sa-sin is 16th generation descendant of the late Goryeo period bureaucrat Noh Jin (노진;盧稹). His father, a low-echelon civil officer in the district, died in a car accident when Roh was seven years old. With his uncle's help, Roh first enrolled at the Taegu Technical School but transferred to the local Kyongbuk High School where he was an above-average student. Roh befriended Chun Doo-hwan while in high school in Taikyū.

Military serviceEdit

During the Korean War (1950–1953), Roh joined the South Korean army as an enlisted conscript in an Artillery unit, being promoted to Sergeant Cannoneer of an M114 155 mm howitzer gun line. He later entered the Korean Military Academy, completing it in the first class of the four-year program, he graduated in February 1954 with a Bachelor of Science degree and a commission as an Army 2nd Lieutenant in the 11th class of the Korea Military Academy (KMA).

A commissioned officer in the infantry from 1954, Roh rose steadily through the ranks and fought in the Vietnam War first in 1968 as a Lieutenant Colonel and Battalion Commander, later was promoted to Major General and the commander of White Horse Division in 1979. A member of the Hanahoe, a secret military group, he gave critical support to a coup later that year in which Chun became the de facto ruler of South Korea. Roh was a military general when he helped Chun lead troops to the Gwangju Democratization Movement in 1980.

Roh held several key army posts such as Commander of the Capital Security Command in 1979 and Commander of the Defense Security Command in 1980.

When Roh first joined the military, his surname was transcribed in English as "No." He later changed it to "Roh" to avoid the negative connotations of "No" in English.[7]

Political careerEdit

Cabinet ministerEdit

Following his retirement from the Korean Army in July 1981, Roh accepted President Chun's offer of the post of Minister of State for National Security and Foreign Affairs. Later, he served as Sports Minister, Home Affairs Minister, President of the Seoul Olympics Organizing Committee, and in 1985, chairman of the ruling Democratic Justice Party. Most notably, he oversaw preparations for the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, which he officially declared open.

June 29 Declaration and run for presidencyEdit

Despite his involvement in the 12 December 1979 coup d'état against then-President Choi Kyu-hah and the bloody military crackdown of dissidents in the Gwangju Uprising of 18–27 May 1980 and with an eye on the Blue House in the upcoming 1987 presidential elections, Roh began working to distance himself from the unpopular Chun government. The reason was that Roh worked to carry out his own agenda for democratic reform. By agreeing to meeting the demands of the political opposition in terms of political reforms with his eight-point proposal including direct election of the President, Roh successfully upstaged Chun and boosted his own image as a reformer.

In June 1987, Chun named Roh as the presidential candidate of the ruling Democratic Justice Party. This was widely perceived as handing Roh the presidency, and triggered large pro-democracy rallies in Seoul and other cities in the 1987 June Democracy Movement.

In response, Roh made a speech on 29 June promising a wide program of reforms. Chief among them were a new, more democratic constitution and popular election of the president. In the election, the two leading opposition figures, Kim Young-sam and Kim Dae-jung (both of whom later became presidents), were unable to overcome their differences and split the vote, in spite of the first female presidential candidate, Hong Sook-ja in South Korean electoral history history withdrawing from the race to support Kim Young-sam against Roh.[8] This enabled Roh to win by a narrow margin with 36.6% of the vote and become the country's first cleanly elected president on 16 December 1987.

Presidency (1988–1993)Edit

Roh was inaugurated as president on 25 February 1988. For the first time, the ceremony was held outside the National Assembly. Subsequent presidents have been inaugurated at the same location.[9]

Roh's rule was notable for hosting the Seoul Olympics in 1988 and for his foreign policy of Nordpolitik, which represented a major break from previous administrations. True to his word, he remained committed to democratic reforms and was steadfast in the push toward political and socio-economic reforms at home. Democratization of politics, economic "growth with equity," and national reunification were the three policy goals publicly stated by the Roh administration.

However, in 1992, Roh's government sealed up a cave on Mount Halla where the remains of the Jeju uprising massacre victims had been discovered, continuing a series of coverups by successive administrations on the truth of the uprising.[10]

Merging of political parties in 1990Edit

In order to overcome the paralysis of governing due to lack of majority support in the National Assembly, the Roh government sought to attain "a grand compromise" in partisan politics. The surprising announcement of the party merger on 22 January 1990 was an attempt to accomplish this political miracle. The ruling Democratic Justice Party merged with two opposition parties, Kim Young-sam's Reunification and Democracy Party and Kim Jong-pil's New Democratic Republican Party. The new established Democratic Liberal Party, which commanded a more than two-thirds majority in the legislature, sought to establish political stability so as to enable socio-economic progress. However, the merger was fraught with factional infighting, undermining his administration's handling on national affairs.[11]

Foreign policyEdit

He met with President Corazon Aquino for a series of talks between the Philippines and South Korea for economic, social, and cultural ties, supporting the Filipino boxer Leopoldo Serantes in the Olympics, and to discuss unification talks to end North Korea's hostilities after the Korean War.

During his administration, Roh's stance as President was very active in diplomacy. Successfully hosting the 24th Summer Olympics in Seoul in his first year in office was a major accomplishment, followed by his active diplomacy, including his address before the United Nations General Assembly in October 1988, his meeting with U.S. President George H. W. Bush, and delivering a speech before a joint session of the U.S. Congress. He also conducted a five-nation European visit in December 1989.

On 7 July 1988, he launched an aggressive foreign policy initiative called the Northern Diplomacy, or Nordpolitik, which brought about benefits and rewards to his government. In 1989, Seoul established diplomatic relations with Hungary and Poland, followed by diplomatic ties with Yugoslavia, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, and Mongolia in 1990. South Korea's trade with the People's Republic of China steadily increased, reaching the $3.1 billion mark at the same time South Korea's trade with the Eastern Bloc nations and the Soviet Union increased to $800 million. Seoul and Moscow exchanged full consular general's offices in 1990. Roh's moves left North Korea more isolated and was a dramatic and historic turning point of South Korea’s diplomatic goals.

On 4 June 1990, Roh, while visiting the United States, met with Mikhail Gorbachev, President of the Soviet Union. The meeting ended 42 years of official silence between the two countries and paved the way for improved diplomatic relations. Roh later visited Soviet Union in 1991.

North Korean relationsEdit

The Nordpolitik policy also proposed the interim development of a "Korean Community", which was similar to a North Korean proposal for a confederation.[12]

From 4 to 7 September 1990, high-level talks were held in Seoul, at the same time that the North was protesting about the Soviet Union normalizing relations with the South. In December 1991 both states made an accord, the Agreement on Reconciliation, Non-Aggression, Exchange and Cooperation, pledging non-aggression and cultural and economic exchanges. They also agreed on prior notification of major military movements and established a military hotline, and working on replacing the armistice with a "peace regime". Today, the agreement has been praised for forming a foundation for cross-border exchanges and cooperation.[13][14][15]

In January 1992, North and South Korea also signed the Joint Declaration of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, although the North subsequently reneged and pursued its own nuclear weapons program. This coincided with the admission of both North and South Korea into the United Nations.[16] Meanwhile, on 25 March 1991, a unified Korean team, for the first time, used the Korean Unification Flag at the World Table Tennis Competition in Japan, and on 6 May 1991, a unified team competed at the World Youth Football Competition in Portugal.

Economy and infrastructureEdit

Roh's emphasis on "economic growth with equity," although well received by the public, led to the dwindling in the annual economic growth rate from the high of 12.3 percent in 1988 to 6.7 percent in 1989. As labor strikes and demands for higher wages intensified, the Roh government imposed an austerity plan to keep South Korea's export-oriented economy more competitive internationally. However, pursuit of higher wages in the wake of the strikes and the appreciation of the South Korean won in value against the U.S. dollar made South Korean products less competitive internationally.

However, among his positive legacies were the cancellation of debt in rural areas, the construction of 2 million new houses and establishing public land ownership for the public interest. Among his lasting legacies is the building of large-scale national projects such as Incheon International Airport which opened in 2001 (and is now one of the largest and busiest airports in the world) and the Korea Train Express (KTX) high speed rail system which opened in 2004, both of which began construction under his administration in 1992.[17]

Post-presidencyEdit

Barred from running for a second term in 1992 (the 1987 constitution retained the previous ban on reelection), Roh left office on 24 February 1993.

Trial, jail sentence and pardonEdit

In 1993, Roh's successor, Kim Young-sam, led an anti-corruption campaign which also investigated Roh and Chun Doo-hwan. Kim had previously merged his party with Roh's in a deal that enabled him to win the election. Kim's administration also officially recognised the 12 December incident as a coup.

In October 1995, Roh, in a tearful televised speech, publicly apologized for having illegally amassed hundreds of millions of dollars in secret political donations during his term as president.[18] Roh was arrested in November 1995 on charges of bribery.[19] The two former presidents were also later separately charged with mutiny and treason for their roles in the 1979 coup and the 1980 Gwangju massacre.

The "trial of the century", as described by the media saw both convicted in August 1996 for treason, mutiny, and corruption; Chun was sentenced to death, later commuted to life imprisonment, while Roh's 22½-year jail sentence was reduced to 17 years on appeal. Both were released from prison in December 1997, pardoned by Kim Young-sam on advice of president-elect Kim Dae-jung. Both Roh and Chun attended Kim Dae-jung's inauguration on 25 February 1998.

In March 2006, Roh was also stripped of 11 national honours which he previously received.[20]

Roh finished repaying fines from his illegally gained wealth in 2013. In 2013, the remaining W24 billion (22 million USD) of a W262.9 billion fine for corruption in office was paid.[21] He mostly stayed out of politics and maintained a low profile in retirement. In 2019, Roh's son, on behalf of his father visited the May 18th National Cemetery in Gwangju and in 2020, offered a flower wreath under his father's name.[22] In contrast, his friend and predecessor, Chun Doo-hwan has stopped repaying his remaining fine and has not shown regret or remorse for his past actions.

HealthEdit

Roh suffered from prostate cancer and received surgery in 2002. He also suffered from cerebellar atrophy and asthma.[23]His son, Roh Jae-heon who is a lawyer based in the United States, said that Roh spent most of his final 10 years of his life in hospital,[24] while his daughter Roh Soh-yeong, an art museum director, said he was bed-ridden for past 10 years and unable to speak or move his body.[25]

Death and state funeralEdit

Roh died in intensive care at the Seoul National University Hospital at 1:45pm KST on 26 October 2021, at the age of 88.[26][27] Roh's family released his last will and message, asking for forgiveness for his role in the 1979 military coup and 1980 Gwangju Uprising crackdown, and expressed his wish for future generations to be able to achieve reunification with North Korea which he could not achieve in his term.[28]

In view of Roh's mixed and disputed legacy, the government decided to hold a state funeral for Roh following a debate within the national cabinet, in recognition of his "significant contributions to the nation's development".[29][30] The decision was criticized by some, including survivors and victims' families of the Gwangju crackdown and members of the ruling liberal Democratic Party. The city of Gwangju and several other cities and provincial governments refused to raise flags half-mast or set up memorial altars for Roh in accordance with state funeral procedures.[31][32] In Seoul, memorial altars saw a low turnout of mourners coming to pay their respects.[33]

The scaled-down state funeral service, held in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic took place at Olympic Park, Seoul on 30 October, in recognition of the 1988 Summer Olympics which was successfully held there under his presidency. Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum gave an eulogy. By law, Roh is not eligible for burial at a national cemetery because of his past criminal record and conviction. The Roh family plans to bury him at Unification Hill at the border town of Paju.[34]

He died about one month before former President Chun Doo-hwan died on 23 November 2021 from complications of blood cancer, less than one month later.

HonoursEdit

Foreign honoursEdit

In popular cultureEdit

See alsoEdit

Further readingEdit

  • Bedeski, Robert (November 2002). The Transformation of South Korea: Reform and Reconstitution in the Sixth Republic Under Roh Tae Woo, 1987-1992. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-134-84515-6.
  • Kleiner, Juergen (28 November 2001). Korea: A Century Of Change. World Scientific. ISBN 978-981-4490-80-1.
  • Snyder, Scott A. (2 January 2018). South Korea at the Crossroads: Autonomy and Alliance in an Era of Rival Powers. Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-54618-8.

NotesEdit

  1. ^ a b At least one source[1] says that Roh was born on 17 August 1932, making his age at death 89.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "노태우 전 대통령 '별세' 향년 89세···굴곡진 생애". SE Daily. 26 October 2021. Retrieved 26 October 2021.
  2. ^ "Chronology of late former President Roh Tae-woo". Yonhap News Agency. 26 October 2021. Retrieved 26 October 2021. December 4, 1932: Born in Daegu
  3. ^ Cha, Sangmi; Smith, Josh (26 October 2021). "South Korea's former president Roh Tae-woo dies at 88 - hospital". Reuters. Archived from the original on 26 October 2021.
  4. ^ Choe, Sang-hun (26 October 2021). "Roh Tae-woo, South Korean Leader During Move Toward Democracy, Dies at 88". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 October 2021.
  5. ^ Sang-Hun, Choe (26 October 2021). "Roh Tae-woo, 88, South Korean Leader in Move Toward Democracy, Dies". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 27 October 2021.
  6. ^ "The Origin and Development Trend of Chinese Genealogy Culture". inf.news. Retrieved 12 January 2022.
  7. ^ Chua-Eoan, Howard G. (28 December 1987). "Roh: "I Am a Positive Person". Time. Retrieved 29 December 2021.
  8. ^ Holley, David (6 December 1987). "Kim Young Sam Gets Backing of Only Woman in Korea Race". Retrieved 24 November 2016.
  9. ^ "The shifting presidential inaugurations through the years". 24 February 2013. Retrieved 27 October 2021.
  10. ^ HIDEKO TAKAYAMA (19 June 2000). "Ghosts Of Cheju". Newsweek. Retrieved 30 March 2009.
  11. ^ "(5th LD) Former President Roh Tae-woo dies at 88". 26 October 2021. Retrieved 27 October 2021.
  12. ^ Bluth, Christoph (2008). Korea. Cambridge: Polity Press. pp. 48–49. ISBN 978-07456-3357-2.
  13. ^ Blustein, Paul (13 December 1991). "Two Koreas pledge to end aggression". The Washington Post. Retrieved 19 September 2018.
  14. ^ David E. Sanger (13 December 1991). "Koreas sign Pact renouncing force in a step to unity". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 September 2018.
  15. ^ "Agreement on Reconciliation, Nonagression and Exchanges And Cooperation Between the South and the North". U.S. Department of State. 13 December 1991. Retrieved 19 September 2018.
  16. ^ Hyung Gu Lynn (2007). Bipolar Orders: The Two Koreas since 1989. Zed Books. p. 160.
  17. ^ "Former President Roh, a key man in military coup and witness to democratization". 26 October 2021. Retrieved 27 October 2021.
  18. ^ "Roh Tae-woo, who restored direct elections, dies at 88". 26 October 2021. Retrieved 27 October 2021.
  19. ^ "Chronology of late former President Roh Tae-woo". 27 October 2021. Retrieved 27 October 2021.
  20. ^ "Chronology of late former President Roh Tae-woo". 27 October 2021. Retrieved 27 October 2021.
  21. ^ "Ex-President Roh Tae-woo to Pay Remainder of Massive Fine". The Chosunilbo. 22 August 2013. Retrieved 27 October 2019.
  22. ^ "(LEAD) Late ex-President Roh asks democracy uprising victims for forgiveness in last will". 27 October 2021. Retrieved 27 October 2021.
  23. ^ "(5th LD) Former President Roh Tae-woo dies at 88". 26 October 2021. Retrieved 27 October 2021.
  24. ^ "(LEAD) Late ex-President Roh asks democracy uprising victims for forgiveness in last will". 27 October 2021. Retrieved 27 October 2021.
  25. ^ "Ex-South Korean President Roh Tae-woo dies at 88". 27 October 2021. Retrieved 30 October 2021.
  26. ^ "Roh Tae-woo, 88, South Korean Leader in Move Toward Democracy, Dies (paywalled)". 26 October 2021. Retrieved 27 October 2021.
  27. ^ Cha, Sangmi; Smith, Josh (26 October 2021). "South Korea's former president Roh Tae-woo dies at 88 - hospital". Reuters. Archived from the original on 26 October 2021.
  28. ^ "(5th LD) Former President Roh Tae-woo dies at 88". 26 October 2021. Retrieved 27 October 2021.
  29. ^ "(3rd LD) S. Korea to hold state funeral for late ex-President Roh". 27 October 2021. Retrieved 27 October 2021.
  30. ^ "Moon pays respects to Roh, won't attend funeral". 27 October 2021. Retrieved 27 October 2021.
  31. ^ "S Koreans send off former President Roh in small funeral". 30 October 2021. Retrieved 30 October 2021.
  32. ^ ""조기만 게양" "조기도, 분향소도 거부"…'국가장' 대응 제각각". 28 October 2021. Retrieved 30 October 2021.
  33. ^ "Passed by". 28 October 2021. Retrieved 5 November 2021.
  34. ^ "S. Korea bids farewell to late former President Roh". 30 October 2021. Retrieved 30 October 2021.
  35. ^ "Senarai Penuh Penerima Darjah Kebesaran, Bintang dan Pingat Persekutuan Tahun 1988" (PDF).

External linksEdit

Political offices
Preceded by President of South Korea
1988–1993
Succeeded by
Sporting positions
Preceded by President of Organizing Committee for Summer Olympic Games
1983–1986
Succeeded by