Ex-President Kim Young-sam Dies

      November 23, 2015 09:25

      Former President Kim Young-sam, a tireless advocate for democracy during decades of military dictatorship, died on Sunday. He was 88.

      Kim was hospitalized last Thursday with a high fever and breathing difficulties and moved to intensive care when his condition deteriorated on Saturday, according to Seoul National University Hospital. The cause of death was septicemia complicated by acute heart failure.

      Kim's son Hyon-chul was at his side during his final moments, but his wife Son Myung-soon was unable to be there.

      Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn lays a wreath at an altar for former President Kim Young-sam in Jongno, Seoul on Sunday.

      The government said after five days of mourning Kim will be sent off with a state funeral on Thursday and buried in the National Cemetery in Seoul.

      President Park Geun-hye who was in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for the East Asia Summit, expressed her deep condolences.

      The ruling Saenuri Party said it mourns the loss of a "major figure" in modern Korean history, while the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy said Kim was a "pillar of Korean democracy."

      Kim was a central figure in Korea's democratic struggle from the 1960s to 1980s along with President Kim Dae-jung, who succeeded him as president. During his brief tenure in the top job Korea was hit by the Asian financial crisis and he was forced to accept a humiliating bailout from the International Monetary Fund.

      Former President Kim Young-sam takes the oath during his inauguration on Feb. 25, 1993 (file photo).

      Born in Geoje, South Gyeongsang Province in 1927, Kim became Korea's youngest elected lawmaker in 1954. He served in the National Assembly for nine terms but was Korea's first lawmaker to be stripped of his position for protesting against the military dictatorship of President Park Chung-hee.

      In 1983, he staged a 23-day hunger strike against the military regime of President Chun Doo-hwan. In 1992, Kim became Korea's 14th president after forging an alliance with his political opponents and defeating his fellow activist and rival Kim Dae-jung.

      During his single term as president from 1993 to 1998, Kim oversaw the dismantling of military power as well as improving financial transparency.

      He also enacted a law to honor those who died during the Gwangju uprising in 1980. But his term in office was marred by economic collapse, which prompted Korea to turn cap in hand to the IMF for a US$58 billion emergency bailout.

      He is survived by his wife and five children.

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