Kim Dae Jung

Kim Dae Jung (kĭm dā jŏng) [key], 1924–2009, president (1998–2003) of South Korea. A native of South Jeolla prov., Kim was a long-time campaigner for increased democracy and a writer on international issues. He was elected to the national legislature in 1961 and a decade later first ran for president as leader of the opposition to President Park Chung Hee. In 1973, while he was in Japan, he was kidnapped by South Korea's spy agency and taken back to Seoul. From the mid-1970s through the mid-80s he spent much time either in prison or in exile in the United States. After returning to Korea in 1985, he again ran unsuccessfully for president in 1987 and 1992. In the midst of a financial crisis in 1997, he finally won the presidency, succeeding Kim Young Sam. Kim worked to reform and revive the economy and sought improved relations with North Korea, calling for an easing of U.S. policy toward it and traveling in 2000 to the North for a historic summit with Kim Jong Il (see under Kim Il Sung). For his efforts to promote democracy and human rights as well as to open ties with North Korea, Kim was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (2000). The failure of the North to honor its pledges, a slowing economy, and a series of corruption scandals, including ones involving his sons, subsequently hurt Kim politically. His reputation was further damaged when it was revealed in Feb., 2003, that his summit with Kim Jong Il might have been due in part to payment of $186 million to the North.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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