Grief over ex-leader's suicide

2009-05-25 10:10
Women cry in front of a picture of former South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun. (AP)

Women cry in front of a picture of former South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun. (AP) (AP )

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Seoul - Tens of thousands including North Korea's leader expressed grief on Monday at the death of former South Korean president Roh Moo-Hyun, who leapt from a cliff after being questioned in a graft scandal.

The government ordered a week of mourning and a public funeral for the liberal leader who held office from 2003-8, as thousands of riot police went on guard to quell any backlash against the current conservative administration.

On the day the North announced it had staged another nuclear test, leader Kim Jong-Il sent a message of condolence to Roh's family, according to the communist state's official media.

"On hearing the news that former president Roh Moo-Hyun died in an accident, I express profound condolences to widow Kwon Ryang-Suk and his bereaved family," it said.

Roh doggedly pursued reconciliation with the North despite its 2006 nuclear and missile tests. He held a summit with Kim in Pyongyang in October 2007, only the second in the history of the two countries.

Relations between North and South have turned icy since Roh's conservative successor Lee Myung-Bak took office and linked major economic aid to progress on nuclear disarmament.

Pyongyang's state media on Sunday suggested Roh's death was linked to the prosecutors' "coercive investigation" - a view shared by some supporters of the late leader who believed the bribery probe was politically motivated.

Tens of thousands of tearful mourners, many clutching white chrysanthemums in a traditional symbol of grief, flocked to Roh's retirement village of Bongha near the southeast coast.

A poignant suicide note 

The funeral will be held there on Friday.

"It's hard to keep count," Lee Sung-Ho, an aide to the Roh family, told AFP by phone from Bongha. "Mourners are continuously streaming in. The number was well over 100 000 on Sunday alone."

Roh jumped to his death early on Saturday from a mountain near his home after going hiking with a bodyguard. He left a poignant suicide note for his family on his home computer.

"I caused so much trouble to many people," it read, according to the text released by police. "Please don't have sorrowful feelings. Aren't life and death all part of nature?"

World leaders, including US President Barack Obama, Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, offered condolences.

But some of Roh's supporters turned back conservative Korean leaders who tried to enter Bongha village to pay respects. They trampled and burnt a wreath sent by the current president.

Prosecutors on April 30 questioned Roh, 62, for 10 hours about some $6m which family members received from a wealthy shoe manufacturer.

The investigation tarnished his legacy as an anti-corruption fighter, even though he did not admit personal wrongdoing.

'Don't blame anyone. This is fate'

On May 14, in an unrelated graft case, Roh's elder brother was jailed for four years for taking more than $2m in bribes. Roh Gun-Pyeong was briefly paroled from prison so he could pay respects at Bongha.

Some mourners claimed the prosecutors' probe and associated media leaks were politically motivated. The government says the inquiry, which has also targeted a friend of the current president, is independent.

Authorities set up 31 altars across the country, including seven in Seoul, where mourners can pay tribute. Political parties, religious groups and civic organisations separately established 155 altars nationwide.

Police said more than 5 000 riot police were deployed in Seoul alone.

Apart from his reconciliation policy with North Korea, the former human rights lawyer was credited with working to make his own nation more democratic and less authoritarian.

But critics said the South's "sunshine" engagement policy gave the North too much for too little in return. A relatively sluggish economic performance also undermined Roh's popularity.

Conservative newspapers which whom Roh feuded during his term mourned the death but said it should not be politicised.

"The public will simply not tolerate particular groups of people to appropriate Roh's death to mobilise politically and plan aggressive demonstrations," said JoongAng Daily in a editorial.

It noted that Roh in his final note had written: "Don't blame anyone. This is fate."

NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

Joburg hot spots for cocktails, craft beer, tapas and wine!

It’s the season to be jolly – so we’ve rounded up some new Joburg hot spots!

 
 

I love summer.24

The craziest deaths of 2014
How to make this a sensual, sexy summer!
This is what South Africans Googled in 2014!
This hilarious song is your new holiday anthem

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

2DAYS ONLY – 30% off Appliances

Coffee makers, blenders, fans, juicers and more. T&Cs apply. Shop now!

2 DAYS ONLY – 40% off books

Get 40% off when you buy 2 books. For two days only! T&Cs apply. Buy now!

Up to 50% off on outdoor gear

Save on chairs, blankets, cooler bags, umbrellas and more. Shop now!

Save on Samsung

Cameras, mobile phones, TVs, Tablets and more. While stocks last. Shop now!

Grand Theft Auto 5

Now available on PS4, Xbox One and PC from R649. Buy now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

There is so much going on around you and inside your head. You may want to take your ideas to the next level. Romance may be...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.