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Ex-Pres. Chun Visits Ailing Kim DJ in Hospital

Posted August. 17, 2009 07:15,   


Former President Chun Doo-hwan visited the ailing former President Kim Dae-jung at Yonsei University Severance Hospital yesterday in Seoul, following the visit of former President Kim Young-sam Monday.

Kim Dae-jung has been hospitalized since mid-July with pneumonia.

In 1980, Chun had Kim Dae-jung arrested at the peak of pro-democracy protests and had him sentenced to death.

Chun told Kim Dae-jung`s wife Lee Hee-ho, "You`ve had a hard time caring for President Kim,” adding, “His condition seems to be getting worse so I came to see him instead of going on vacation.”

“When Kim was president, former presidents were very happy. He invited former presidents to (the presidential office) almost 10 times and kept us informed of what was happening at the time. We also got a lot help from him,” Chun said.

“Former presidents can lead comfortable lives as long as the incumbent president pays attention to them.”

“Certain presidents failed to do this. I hope President Lee Myung-bak will listen to the opinions of former presidents."

Saying he underwent surgery on his prostate the day before the funeral of former President Roh Moo-hyun, Chun said, “It will take time for Kim (Dae-jung) to recover because of his old age. But he will definitely recover thanks to the excellent medical staff at the hospital.”

In a 15-minute meeting with Chun, Lee thanked him several times for visiting. Also in attendance were Kim Dae-jung`s son and former lawmaker Kim Hong-up, main opposition Democratic Party lawmaker Park Jie-won, and former lawmakers Kwon Roh-gap, Han Kwang-ok and Kim Ok-doo.

Park told reporters, “Nobody mentioned what happened in the past between the two former presidents.”

After seizing power in a military coup in late 1979, Chun had Kim arrested for masterminding the democratic movement in Gwangju in 1980 and had him tried by a military court. The court handed down a death sentence for sedition and conspiracy, to which Kim Dae-jung said in his final statement, “To help democracy take root in Korea, political retaliation must not happen.”

Thanks to strong U.S. intervention, the sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. In return, Chun was allowed to make a state visit to the United States.

Kim Dae-jung was subsequently exiled to the United States in December 1982. When he returned home in February 1985, however, Chun put Kim under house arrest for a month.

To live up to what he said in his final statement, Kim Dae-jung tried to forgive Chun after being elected president in December 1997. Two years later, Kim Dae-jung began inviting former presidents to informal discussions.

In the autobiography he was writing until his hospitalization, Kim Dae-jung said, “I`ve tried to religiously forgive Chun, who tortured me to the brink of death.”

After the death sentence was announced, his wife tried to rescue her husband through a one-on-one meeting with Chun.

She recalled Chun in her autobiography published in November last year, saying, “Chun was a really unique person. He talked to me, the wife of the `rebellion leader, ` as if talking to a neighbor. While talking, he rolled up his trousers and scratched his leg.”

On the purpose of his visit, Chun told reporters, “What do you want to hear?”

Also visiting the sick former president the same day were close aides to the late Roh Moo-hyun, including the Democratic Party’s supreme council member Ahn Hee-jung, Changshin Textile CEO Kang Keum-won, and former president chief of staff Lee Byung-wan, as well as Reiichiro Takahashi, senior minister at Japan`s embassy in Seoul.

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