Kim Dae Jung

Biography of Kim Dae Jung

Kim dae jung he was president of South Korea (1998-2003), Nobel Peace Prize (2000), politician and activist in favor of human rights and civil democracy. He suffered exile, jail, torture and kidnapping. But his will to see a change was not broken. He dedicated more than 40 years of his life to civil struggles. He passed away at 83 old in 2009.

His life began in 1925 in the southeastern korea. He was the second of four children of a couple made up of middle-class farmers, established in the region called Cholla. There Kim Dae Jung began his formal studies in 1936 until he graduated from the Higher School of Commerce in the year 1943.

Two years later he started working in a shipping company. Later, opened his own company in the same branch and by the time he was 24 years old, he ran two merchant ship companies. At that age he had already had political friction; He frequented the democratic and leftist groups that clashed with the president Syngman Rhee.

The first time he was brought to prison it was in August 1950, accused of being a bourgeois reactionary. He fled from jail and joined the coast guard.

Start of Kim Dae Jung’s political career

In 1954 he launched his independent candidacy for deputy, but failed to win. In 1956 he decided to join the party that constituted the second political force in the country at that historical moment, the Democratic party.

With this political group he managed to be elected as deputy to the National Assembly in the elections held on July 29, 1960.

After the coup d’etat perpetrated in May 1961 and despite the enforcement of laws against political activities, Kim Dae Jung became the main spokesman for the opposition against the government of Park chung hee. In parallel, he continued his formal education at the Korea University School of Business Administration.

He also studied economics at the Kyonghee University and obtained in 1970 a bachelor’s degree in economics.

He continued to climb the ladder in his political career and in 1971 he ran for the presidential election on behalf of his party. He failed to win the electoral contest by a small margin of votes: he obtained 43 percent of the votes according to the electoral authorities.

The politician made complaints referring to serious irregularities committed in the electoral process. That same year he was forced to take refuge in Tokyo, because the political situation in South Korea worsened. From there he called for the resistance of the people.

Kim Dae Jung suffers attacks and kidnapping

Throughout his political life, Kim Dae Jung suffered five attacks. The first was when he ran for the first time for the presidency of the republic. On that occasion, a truck forced his vehicle off the road in a noisy way. Two people lost their lives in the incident while Kim Dae Jung suffered a leg injury that left him with life-long consequences.

A short time later he experienced another moment of great tension when officials of the Korean Intelligence Agency They broke into his room to take him away. The diplomatic intervention of the United States and Japan, achieved their liberation in Seoul after five days of captivity.

However, he remained under house arrest and was subsequently indicted on various charges. Being required by law did not prevent him from attending a series of events in pursuit of the restoration of the democracy, among which stands out “The declaration for the healing of the homeland through democracy.” For your participation in this event held at the Seoul catholic cathedral, was prosecuted and sentenced to 8 years in prison.

The sentence was reduced to five years in which he was subjected to harsh treatment and torture. His poor health forced his release. Upon his departure on January 29, 1980, he found a nation mired in violence and injustice. It resumed its activity in March 1980.

Kim Dae Jung was sentenced to death

The leader, politician and activist was released for a short time. He was accused of organizing a civil uprising in order to overthrow the government of another soldier who succeeded Park in power. Again, the US government intervened and managed to suspend the fatal sentence and change it to another 20 years in prison.

He spent two years in jail and then went to North America, where he underwent medical treatment; he settled with his family and worked as a teacher at prestigious universities. He never detached himself from the struggle for democracy in his country.

Kim Dae Jung wins the presidency of the republic

Kim presented two candidacies for the presidency of the republic in which he did not achieve his electoral mission. However, in 1997 he managed to seize the first magistracy of South Korea.

Kim Dae Jung with Vladimir Putin

Kim’s election marked a milestone in the history of the Asian nation, as this was the first peaceful change of government experienced by the Asian nation since 1948.

His mandate was characterized by seeking an approach with North Korea, in order to promote the reunification of both countries. Likewise, it established a policy of opening up to the United States. Economically, the first years of his mandate were very difficult.

Kim Dae Jung with George W Bush

Nobel Peace Prize

Kim Dae Jung was the first Korean to be honored with the Nobel Peace Prize. Event that occurred in 2000. The merits that he made throughout his life to become a creditor of this famous distinction are undeniable.

However, the award was conferred primarily for his attempt to reunite the two Koreas. Besides of Nobel Peace Prize, Kin Dae Jung has been awarded the following distinctions:

  • Bruno Kreisky Award of Human Rights (1981)
  • George Meany Award (1987)
  • Prize awarded by the United Nations Association (1998)
  • Memorial Award Professor Thorolf Rafto (2000)
  • Honorary doctorate universities from: Moscow, Emory, Portland, Sydney, Georgetown, Yeungnam and Portland.

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