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Ex-Pres. Roh’s Hometown Engulfed in Shock and Sadness

Posted May. 24, 2009 08:24,   


Bongha Village in Gimhae, South Gyeongsang Province, the hometown of the late former President Roh Moo-hyun, was in complete shock and sorrow yesterday in the wake of Roh’s apparent suicide.

○ Prevailing feeling of sadness

Shortly after Roh’s death, some 2,000 of his supporters and tourists from across the country started flocking to the village. They blamed an “excessive probe” by prosecutors for causing Roh’s death.

Park Yeong-jae, the leader of a community who graduated from the same middle school as Roh, said, “He seemed to have greatly suffered mentally. It’s unbelievable.”

Lee Jae-woo, Roh’s friend for 50 years, also said, “I can’t believe he’s dead.”

Residents in the town of Jinyeong, two kilometers from Bongha, were also shocked and saddened by the tragedy. The former president attended elementary and middle schools there.

Ahn Sang-cheol, one of Roh’s elementary school classmates, said, “It seems that former President Roh felt mental pressure from the investigation,” adding, “This is a truly unbelievable incident.”

Actor Moon Seong-geun, a vocal supporter of the former president, read Roh’s will at 4 p.m. through the town’s broadcasting, putting the entire village into silence. Some got down on the ground and wailed while others paid silent tribute for the former president.

Requiems went round and round from 10 a.m. and certain residents performed prostrations at places where Roh’s home was well seen to pay their respects.

A temporary altar was set up in front of a town hall at 4 p.m. From the afternoon, a host of figures close to the former president and former Cabinet members under the Roh administration began streaming to the altar.

They included main opposition Democratic Party lawmaker Choi Cheol-kuk; former Health and Welfare Minister Rhyu Si-min; former Government Administration and Home Affairs Minister Kim Doo-kwan; actor Myeong Kye-nam; and ex-head of a support group for Roh Lee Ki-myeong.

Rep. Choi whose constituency includes Bongha Village said, “After returning home, the former president farmed and worked for his community and the environment. For him, it would probably be a great pain for him to have his family members subject to investigation.”

“He spent his days in a virtual prison.”

○ Dead wagon arrives in Bongha

When a wagon carrying the body of the former president arrived at the village around 6:20 p.m., a police line formed to prevent people from approaching the wagon. Residents, Roh’s supporters and tourists shed tears when the wagon passed by. A host of people followed the car, mourning his death.

His bereaved wife Kwon Yang-sook arrived at the residence on a wheelchair around 5 p.m. She reportedly fainted after hearing of her husband’s death.

After reviving consciousness, Kwon reportedly called her husband in tears. Min Mi-yeong, the wife of the former president’s brother Gun-pyeong, comforted Gwon.

Roh Gun-pyeong came to his younger brother’s home after prosecutors suspended Roh Moo-hyun’s arrest warrant to mourn his brother’s death.

The guest list at a tourist information desk was filled with writings of tribute to the former president. Not only members of Rosamo, a private club supporting Roh, but also tourists who came to visit the village wrote message such as, “Please rest in peace,” “We feel for your suffering,” “You made a big contribution to the development of the nation’s democracy,” and “History will judge you.”

○ On-the-spot inspection underway

Police dispatched 30 officers to Owl Rock of Mount Bongha, where Roh jumped to his death, to block people from entering the mountain. An additional 300 guards were also dispatched to areas around the village to conduct an on-site inspection and investigate the cause and circumstances of Roh’s death.

One officer said, “We are asking officials at the residence to investigate details, including the exact site where Roh fell.”