SA sends condolences to South Korea

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Pretoria - President Jacob Zuma has sent condolences to the government and people of South Korea following the death of former President Kim Dae-jung.

"On behalf of the South African Government and on my own behalf, I wish to convey our deepest condolences to the government and the people of South Korea, particularly the family of the former President," said the President in a statement.

He described these as trying times in the political life of South Korea.

According to hospital officials, former President Kim Dae-jung, 85, died at Seoul's Severance Hospital on Tuesday after a long battle with pneumonia and related complications, hospital officials said.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Mr Kim and fellow activist Kim Young-sam formed the Donggyo-dong and Sangdo-dong factions and became the country's two leading politicians.

He narrowly escaped death several times while fighting military dictatorships and he was kidnapped by government agents in a Tokyo hotel in 1973.

After the 1980 coup, Mr Kim was sentenced to death on charges of conspiring to conduct a rebellion but released from prison due to United States pressure. He later went to live in exile in America.

Along with Kim Young-sam and Kim Jong-pil, Mr Kim formed the "Three Kims" which dominated Korean politics for decades.

Mr Kim, while running for president for the fourth time in 1997, cooperated with a former adversary who had once ordered his death to form a coalition that resulted in the country's first horizontal change of power.

As President, he helped to overcome the currency crisis that hit Korea just before the 1997 presidential election.

President Zuma acknowledged Mr Kim's efforts and his vision for the Korean people.

"We acknowledge the efforts of former President Kim Dae-jung and his vision for the Korean people that led to him and the North Korean leader Kim Jong-il working together on a joint declaration they signed on 15 June 2000, paving the way for a brighter future for all Koreans and other peace-loving peoples of the world," said President Zuma

For his efforts, Mr Kim was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2000, in recognition of his struggle as a pro-democracy campaigner as well as his vision in overcoming five decades of mistrust and hostility that led to the first Korean summit meeting.

Meanwhile, a funeral for the former President has been planned in the country's National Assembly, which is the symbol of democracy and parliamentarianism, Rep Park Jie-won of the main opposition Democratic Party said.

He said that the government and Mr Kim's family had agreed to set up a public altar there.

The exact date of the funeral is yet to be decided.