Kim Dae-jung

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Kim Dae-jung (3 December 1925 – 18 August 2009)[2] was President of South Korea from 1998 to 2003, and the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize recipient. A Roman Catholic from 1957, he came to be called the "Nelson Mandela of Asia"[3] for his long-standing opposition to authoritarian rule.

Contents

Early life

Kim was born in Sinan in what was then the Jeolla province; the city is now in South Jeolla province. Kim graduated from Mokpo Commercial High School in 1943 at the top of the class. After working as a clerk for a Japanese-owned shipping company during the Japanese occupation of Korea, he became its owner and became very rich. Kim escaped Communist capture during the Korean War.[4]

Kim first entered politics in 1954 during the administration of Korea's first president, Syngman Rhee. Although he was elected as a representative for the National Assembly in 1961, a military coup led by Park Chung-hee, who later assumed dictatorial powers, voided the elections.[4] He was able to win a seat in the House in the subsequent elections in 1963 and 1967 and went on to become an eminent opposition leader. As such, he was the natural opposition candidate for the country's presidential election in 1971. He nearly defeated Park, despite several handicaps on his candidacy which were imposed by the ruling regime.[5]

A very talented orator, Kim could command unwavering loyalty among his supporters. His staunchest support came from the Jeolla region, where he reliably garnered upwards of 95% of the popular vote, a record that has remained unsurpassed in South Korean politics.

Kim was almost killed in August 1973, when he was kidnapped from a hotel in Tokyo by KCIA agents in response to his criticism of President Park's yushin program, which granted near-dictatorial powers to the president. Only the intervention of American ambassador Philip Habib saved him from being drowned.

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