29 May 2009

rip president roh


on may 29 the state funeral for former president roh mu-hyun was held at gyeongbok palace in downtown seoul. after an aggressive, politically-tinged investigation into an alleged bribery scheme, mr. roh leaped from a cliff near his home in the korean countryside. in the days since, millions have paid their respects, including hundreds of thousands who came to the came to the area around city hall, donning yellow, the color from his 2003 presidential campaign.

one of many tribute altars.

in familiar korean fashion, mourners lamented their detachment, even disdain for the man while in office, but a collective grief has overtaken a nation now grateful for the self-described "idiot" president who brought true democracy and championed the causes of society's less fortunate. as a self-educated attorney (no college but passed the bar), he fought for the rights of abused student protestors. as president, he worked to improve relations with north korea and was just one of two south korean presidents who isn't described as being a dictator. many agree that the current president, lee myung-bak, is moving toward the bad ole days.

suicide is viewed differently here. i don't know enough about fmr president roh to offer a balanced critique of his presidency. in my first months here, i recall the heavy critique and embarrassment many voiced about it. but overnight, roh's image has been transformed into self-less hero. i've heard korean fathers say his suicide was a logical response to a husband and father who felt he could not protect his family, as the prosecution's probe widened to his wife and children. many others are fearful for the future of soko's young democracy.

this academic we interviewed blames herself for not protecting roh.

a couple of days earlier, my kbs co-host abby rhodes and i interviewed a few mourners for our show. listen here

No comments: