Former South Korean president Kim dies at 85

August 19, 2009

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Former President Kim Dae-jung died at Seoul's Severance Hospital Tuesday after a long battle with pneumonia and related complications, hospital officials said. He was 85.

Kim, who served as president from 1998-2003, was admitted to the hospital in western Seoul on July 13 with pneumonia and put on a respirator three days later. He underwent surgery on his bronchial tubes in late July as part of procedures to facilitate his breathing.
Beginning late Monday night, Kim's health condition suddenly deteriorated, with his heart failing intermittently, the hospital officials said. He died at 1:43 P.M. local times on Tuesday afternoon.
He is survived by his wife and former first lady Lee Hee-ho and three sons.
“Former President Kim had been treated for pneumonia since July 13 but died of heart failure caused by internal organ dysfunctions,” Park Chang-il, president of Severance Hospital, said in a news conference.
“His heart failed at 1:43 P.M. on August 18. Doctors abstained from administering emergency cardiopulmonary treatment due to his old age.”
Park Jie-won, a top aide to the late president, said at the conference that an altar for Kim would be set up at Severance Hospital's funeral home.
“At the moment of his death, Kim was given a last farewell by former first lady Lee, his sons and grandchildren, and his closest aides. (Kim's family members and aides) are deeply grateful to the entire nation for their prayers for his health,” said Park, an opposition lawmaker who formerly served as Kim's presidential chief of staff.
“We're also grateful to doctors at Severance Hospital. We'll arrange Kim's funeral through close consultations with his family and the government.”
Kim met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il in June 2000 for the first inter-Korean summit and won the Nobel Peace Prize later that year in recognition of his lifelong fight for democracy and efforts to promote reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula.
South Korea's only Nobel laureate, Kim endured abduction, torture and multiple arrests at the hands of the nation's authoritarian rulers of the 1970s and 1980s while pushing forward its pro-democracy movement.
Kim was born to a middle-class farming family on Jan. 6, 1924, on a small island in South Jeolla Province, when Korea was still under Japanese colonial rule.
He developed the resolve to fight what he saw as an increasingly corrupt government in the late 1940s, when Syngman Rhee, South Korea's first president, began to steer the country towards authoritarianism.
Kim was stripped of his parliamentary seat in 1961 when Gen. Park Chung-hee seized control of the government through a military coup and dissolved the parliament. He was re-elected to parliament in 1963 and his early challenges to Park's iron-fisted rule put him on track for the turbulent life he was to lead.
In 1980, Kim and other leading opposition figures were arrested on charges of treason by Gen. Chun Doo-hwan, who imposed martial law as he moved to take over the presidency following the assassination of Park a year earlier. Kim was sentenced to death after being accused of fomenting an uprising in the city of Gwangju, but was later pardoned.
Political analysts say it was just short of a miracle that Kim won the 1997 presidential election. His inauguration marked South Korea's first transfer of power between rival parties.