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Shameful political legacy

By Park Moo-jong

The Republic of Korea has a shameful political legacy: All 11 former presidents lived or are living unhappy lives after their forced or legal retirement.

In particular, what a disgrace to have two surviving ex-Presidents behind bars, though they were convicted of various corruption charges!

The post-White House life of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter who served from 1977 to 1981 makes a good comparison with those of our former presidents. President Jimmy Carter largely failed, but former President Carter seems to have succeeded.

As a mediator for international conflicts, an esteemed human rights crusader and a contributor to the Habitat for Humanity movement in his spare time, Carter won the coveted Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.

Many people acknowledge this Carter with his silvery hair and toothy smile who has devoted himself, armed with a hammer and nails, to helping homeless people around the globe and working for world peace and enhancing human rights.

Of course, the case of Donald Trump, who will be an ex-president of the United States, six days from now, will be quite different from those of his predecessors.

How about our former presidents ― Syngman Rhee, Yun Po-sun, Park Chung-hee, Choi Kyu-hah, Chun Doo-hwan, Roh Tae-woo, Kim Young-sam, Kim Dae-jung, Roh Moo-hyun, Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye?

Though feeling bad, let's look back on their lives, from which we have yet to take any lessons.

The founder of the ROK, Dr. Syngman Rhee (1875-1965) was ousted from his 12-year presidency over his suppression of democracy by the April 19 Students' Revolution in 1960. He flew to Hawaii on May 29 and died there five years later.

Rhee's successor Yun Po-sun (1897-1990), elected under the parliamentary cabinet system, was forced to resign in less than a year when then-Major Gen. Park Chung-hee seized power in the May 16, 19961, coup.

After the shocking assassination of Park on Oct. 26, 1979, Choi Kyu-hah (1919-2006), took over the presidency unexpectedly but was pressured to quit several months later by Gen. Chun Doo-hwan who came to power in the May 17, 1980 coup. Choi lived in seclusion, isolating himself from the outside world until his death.

Chun (1931-) and his Korea Military Academy classmate and successor Roh Tae-woo (1932-) spent two years behind bars after their retirement. Chun was sentenced to death for treason and Roh was given 22-and-a-half years in prison for corruption, but they were pardoned after serving two years.

Their successor Kim Young-sam (1927-2015), who sent his predecessors to prison through retroactive legislation and retaliation against them, was the target of public anger for the unprecedented financial crisis that forced the nation to the brink of a moratorium in 1997, the final year of his term.

The next president, Kim Dae-jung (1924-2009), was "successful" in his early years in office by winning the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize, but his "Sunshine Policy" toward North Korea eventually failed and his sons' corruption convictions outraged the public.

Kim's successor, Roh Moo-hyun (1946-2009), the sensational winner in the 2003 election, committed suicide in May 2009, 15 months into his retirement, by jumping from a cliff behind his home, over suspicions of bribery involving his family members while in office.

And neither Lee Myung-bak nor Park Geun-hye could break the sad tradition. Lee was sentenced to 17 years in jail, while Park, the first president to be impeached, to 22 years in total.

Ahead of the by-elections for Seoul and Busan mayors in April and the presidential poll in March next year, whether to grant special pardons to the two jailed former presidents has been of keen concern after the ruling party leader proposed the idea for the "unity of the people."

At the same time, many people, particularly, those in power, are interested in how the life of President Moon Jae-in will be after his retirement in May next year. Moon said during a press conference that he would like to become a "forgotten man" after he finishes his tenure.

The Republic of Korea has been an undisputed success as a global economic power after World War II, rising from the 36-year-old Japanese colonial rule and the ashes from the 1950-1953 Korean War.

So then, why were all 11 former presidents unfortunate in their later days in life? Can Moon break the sad legacy?

It is common sense that the people are initially responsible in finding a leader who is "not supposed" to follow in the footsteps of his or her predecessors.

But what is crystal clear is that the incumbent president should discard the politics of revenge and listen to public voices to help a genuine democracy take root in this country before too late. Moon will be in office for as many as 17 more months. He has enough time to translate into action the "politics of tolerance."

Here is an episode as a good lesson on grace in defeat for all.

When Bill Clinton entered the White House (on Jan. 20, 1993), he found a letter from the man he beat, George H.W. Bush.

".......You will be our President when you read this note. I wish you well. I wish your family well. Your success now is our country's success. I am rooting hard for you. George."


Park Moo-jong (emjei29@gmail.com) is a standing adviser of The Korea Times. He served as the president-publisher of the nation's first English daily newspaper from 2004 to 2014 after working as a reporter since 1974.


By Park Moo-jong

The Republic of Korea has a shameful political legacy: All 11 former presidents lived or are living unhappy lives after their forced or legal retirement.

In particular, what a disgrace to have two surviving ex-Presidents behind bars, though they were convicted of various corruption charges!

The post-White House life of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter who served from 1977 to 1981 makes a good comparison with those of our former presidents. President Jimmy Carter largely failed, but former President Carter seems to have succeeded.

As a mediator for international conflicts, an esteemed human rights crusader and a contributor to the Habitat for Humanity movement in his spare time, Carter won the coveted Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.

Many people acknowledge this Carter with his silvery hair and toothy smile who has devoted himself, armed with a hammer and nails, to helping homeless people around the globe and working for world peace and enhancing human rights.

Of course, the case of Donald Trump, who will be an ex-president of the United States, six days from now, will be quite different from those of his predecessors.

How about our former presidents ― Syngman Rhee, Yun Po-sun, Park Chung-hee, Choi Kyu-hah, Chun Doo-hwan, Roh Tae-woo, Kim Young-sam, Kim Dae-jung, Roh Moo-hyun, Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye?

Though feeling bad, let's look back on their lives, from which we have yet to take any lessons.

The founder of the ROK, Dr. Syngman Rhee (1875-1965) was ousted from his 12-year presidency over his suppression of democracy by the April 19 Students' Revolution in 1960. He flew to Hawaii on May 29 and died there five years later.

Rhee's successor Yun Po-sun (1897-1990), elected under the parliamentary cabinet system, was forced to resign in less than a year when then-Major Gen. Park Chung-hee seized power in the May 16, 19961, coup.

After the shocking assassination of Park on Oct. 26, 1979, Choi Kyu-hah (1919-2006), took over the presidency unexpectedly but was pressured to quit several months later by Gen. Chun Doo-hwan who came to power in the May 17, 1980 coup. Choi lived in seclusion, isolating himself from the outside world until his death.

Chun (1931-) and his Korea Military Academy classmate and successor Roh Tae-woo (1932-) spent two years behind bars after their retirement. Chun was sentenced to death for treason and Roh was given 22-and-a-half years in prison for corruption, but they were pardoned after serving two years.

Their successor Kim Young-sam (1927-2015), who sent his predecessors to prison through retroactive legislation and retaliation against them, was the target of public anger for the unprecedented financial crisis that forced the nation to the brink of a moratorium in 1997, the final year of his term.

The next president, Kim Dae-jung (1924-2009), was "successful" in his early years in office by winning the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize, but his "Sunshine Policy" toward North Korea eventually failed and his sons' corruption convictions outraged the public.

Kim's successor, Roh Moo-hyun (1946-2009), the sensational winner in the 2003 election, committed suicide in May 2009, 15 months into his retirement, by jumping from a cliff behind his home, over suspicions of bribery involving his family members while in office.

And neither Lee Myung-bak nor Park Geun-hye could break the sad tradition. Lee was sentenced to 17 years in jail, while Park, the first president to be impeached, to 22 years in total.

Ahead of the by-elections for Seoul and Busan mayors in April and the presidential poll in March next year, whether to grant special pardons to the two jailed former presidents has been of keen concern after the ruling party leader proposed the idea for the "unity of the people."

At the same time, many people, particularly, those in power, are interested in how the life of President Moon Jae-in will be after his retirement in May next year. Moon said during a press conference that he would like to become a "forgotten man" after he finishes his tenure.

The Republic of Korea has been an undisputed success as a global economic power after World War II, rising from the 36-year-old Japanese colonial rule and the ashes from the 1950-1953 Korean War.

So then, why were all 11 former presidents unfortunate in their later days in life? Can Moon break the sad legacy?

It is common sense that the people are initially responsible in finding a leader who is "not supposed" to follow in the footsteps of his or her predecessors.

But what is crystal clear is that the incumbent president should discard the politics of revenge and listen to public voices to help a genuine democracy take root in this country before too late. Moon will be in office for as many as 17 more months. He has enough time to translate into action the "politics of tolerance."

Here is an episode as a good lesson on grace in defeat for all.

When Bill Clinton entered the White House (on Jan. 20, 1993), he found a letter from the man he beat, George H.W. Bush.

".......You will be our President when you read this note. I wish you well. I wish your family well. Your success now is our country's success. I am rooting hard for you. George."


Park Moo-jong (emjei29@gmail.com) is a standing adviser of The Korea Times. He served as the president-publisher of the nation's first English daily newspaper from 2004 to 2014 after working as a reporter since 1974.




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