A top aide told to former president Roh Moo-hyun says he appears to have committed suicide. Moon Jae-in told reporters Roh left a suicide note before he hiked up a mountain near his home Saturday morning and jumped to his death.
Police say Roh suffered severe head injuries in the fall and died after being transported from his home town of Gimhae to a hospital in Busan in the southern part of the country. Authorities say they are investigating the circumstances behind the death.
Roh, who was 63 years old, served as president from 2003 to 2008 and was elected on a platform of anti-corruption. Earlier this month, he was questioned about allegations that he took more than $6 million in bribes from a businessman while in office. He admitted that his wife took an unspecified amount of money as a loan to pay off debts, but denied that he was aware of it in advance.
Roh rose to prominence as a human rights lawyer, defending students accused of treason during South Korea's military rule in the 1980s. He built a reputation for challenging the authority of then-military dictator Chun Doo-hwan. In 1987, he was arrested and suspended from his law practice on charges of supporting a strike by workers at a shipyard.
Roh was the youngest son of a peasant family from the southeastern part of the country. He had no formal education beyond high school and studied law on his own.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.