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Former South Korean President Kim Young-Sam Dies at 87

  • VOA News

FILE - Former South Korean President Kim Young-sam, pictured in Seoul, Aug. 18, 2009.

FILE - Former South Korean President Kim Young-sam, pictured in Seoul, Aug. 18, 2009.

Former South Korean President Kim Young-sam, who in the 1990s formally ended decades of military rule in his homeland, died early Sunday. He was 87.

Oh Byung-Hee, chief of Seoul National University Hospital, told reporters in Seoul that Kim was hospitalized Thursday with a high fever and a severe blood infection, after suffering bouts of ill health in recent years.

The pro-democracy activist, who served as president from 1993 to 1998, was an outspoken opponent of the country's previous military rulers. Upon taking office, he had two predecessors indicted on treason and mutiny charges stemming from a 1979 coup. He later pardoned the two convicted military strongmen, Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo.

As a key opposition figure, Kim first sought the presidency in 1987, in South Korea's first free, direct presidential election. But he split that opposition vote with another activist, Kim Dae-jung, allowing Roh Tae-woo to win the election.

As president, Kim was credited with launching a popular anti-corruption campaign, an effort later tarnished by the arrest and conviction of his son on bribery and tax evasion charges.

Kim also sought to enact sweeping economic reforms. But those efforts faltered and his government sought bailout protection from the International Monetary Fund at the height of the 1997 Asian economic crisis.

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