Roh Tae-woo (Korean pronunciation: [no tʰɛ.u]; born December 4, 1932 in Daegu, South Korea), is a former ROK Army general and politician. He was the 13th president of South Korea (1988–1993).
Roh befriended Chun Doo-hwan while in high school in Daegu. In his younger life, Roh was a keen rugby union player.
A member of the army from 1955, Roh rose steadily through the ranks and was promoted to major general in 1979. A member of the Hanahoe, a secret military group, he gave critical support to a coup later that year in which Chun became the de facto ruler of South Korea. Roh was a military general when he helped Chun lead troops to the Gwangju Democratization Movement in 1980.
Chun forced his way into the presidency years later when he retired from the army and Roh became a key official in Chun's government. Most notably, he oversaw preparations for the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, which he officially declared open.
In June 1987, Chun named Roh as the presidential candidate of the ruling Democratic Justice Party. This was widely perceived as handing Roh the presidency, and triggered large pro-democracy rallies in Seoul and other cities in 1987(June Democracy Movement).
In response, Roh made a speech on June 29 promising a wide program of reforms. Chief among them were a new, more democratic constitution and popular election of the president. In the election, the two leading opposition figures, Kim Young-sam and Kim Dae-jung (both of whom later became presidents), were unable to overcome their differences and split the vote. This enabled Roh to win by a narrow margin and become the country's first cleanly elected president.
Roh's rule was notable for hosting the Seoul Olympics in 1988 and for his foreign policy of nordpolitik, which represented a major break from previous administrations. True to his word, he remained committed to democratic reforms.
In 1993, Roh's successor, Kim Young-sam, led an anti-corruption campaign that saw Roh and Chun Doo-hwan on trial for bribery. Ironically, Kim had merged his party with Roh's in a deal that enabled him to win election. The two former presidents were later separately charged with mutiny and treason for their roles in the 1979 coup and the 1980 Gwangju massacre.
Both were convicted in August 1996 of treason, mutiny and corruption; Chun was sentenced to death, later commuted to life imprisonment, while Roh's 22½-year jail sentence was reduced to 17 years on appeal. Both were released from prison in December 1997, pardoned by then-President Kim Young-sam.
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