05/23/2009, 00.00
SOUTH KOREA
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Ex president Roh Moo-hyun commits suicide

by Theresa Kim Hwa-young
He threw himself from a cliff near the village where he was born. A cranial fracture proved fatal. He had been under investigation for corruption. Before he died he had left a letter. The public accuses authorities of persecuting him.

Seoul (AsiaNews) –Former president Roh Moo-hyun committed suicide by throwing himself into a ravine near his native village in Bongha (South Gyeongsang province), at 6.40 local time.

Regional police confirm that Roh had gone mountain climbing with his secretary and that he fell from a height between 6.30 and 6.40. Brought to hospital he was declared dead at 9.30. The medical cause of death was a fractured cranium.  

A person close to the late president has declared that “There is a note he left in relation to this death. We will offer our opinions once we assess the situation.” Another aide said, “The late President Roh had appeared to be exhausted from the prosecutors’ investigation.”

Roh and his wife had been under investigation for some time for having received money from Park Yeon-cha, general administrator of Taekwang, a large shoe manufacturer.  His wife, Kwon Yang-sook, was scheduled to face re-summons today.  The prosecution was planning to indict him for bribery next week.

Roh, 62, became president in 2003, vowing to fight corruption. Despite high initial hopes, his administration quickly became dogged by allegations of incompetence, while the economy precipitated.  Roh sought popular support with an anti American anti Japanese policy, opening up to North Korea.  In 2004 he even risked impeachment, which was later dropped.  His URI party was dealt a heavy defeat in the presidential elections of 2008, as a result of the many scandals which involved people close o his presidency.  In the past, even Cardinal Stephen Kim of Seoul had advised Roh to “confess his guilt”.

The former first lady Kwon Yang-sook fainted after Roh’s death was confirmed at the Busan University hospital where Roh’s corpse has been placed. The residents of Bongwha village, Roh’s birthplace, are criticizing the prosecutor and the current government, saying, “They sacrificed Roh in order to hide their own faults.”

Police have not yet revealed the contents of Roh’s letter, but according to media indiscretions it reads: “I have had hard time and put so many people in trouble so that I couldn't read any book. Don't blame me. Life and death are the same. Please cremate my body and erect a small tombstone in my village,'' indicating his suicide was premeditated”.

President Lee Myung-Bak cancelled all appointments on hearing word of Roh’s death.  Lee also asked that Roh’s funeral be prepared “according to the protocol and with the respect fitting to an ex president”.

 

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