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[Newsmaker] Memorial service held for ex-President Roh Moo-hyun

Former President Roh Moo-hyun in a photo captured from the website of the Democratic Party (Yonhap)
Former President Roh Moo-hyun in a photo captured from the website of the Democratic Party (Yonhap)
South Korea held a ceremony Sunday to commemorate former President Roh Moo-hyun, marking the 12th year of his death.

It took place at Bongha Village in Gimhae, Roh's hometown located 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, bringing together a number of key government and political figures.

They included Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum; Song Young-gil, head of the ruling Democratic Party (DP); Kim Gi-hyeon, acting chief and floor leader of the main opposition People Power Party (PPP); and Lee Cheol-hee, senior presidential secretary for political affairs, as well as several governors.

Having served as South Korea's president from 2003-2008, Roh is still an iconic figure in the country's liberal bloc.

He pushed for far-reaching reform measures and endeavored to eliminate authoritarianism and regionalism rooted in the nation's politics.

Prime Minister Kim pointed out that, "It was Roh's belief that the politics of divisions should be liquidated and win-win politics should be achieved."

Unlike his aspiration, however, South Korea is faced with polarization, increased ideological conflicts and generational and gender rifts, Kim said, delivering a memorial speech.

"We won't let go of hope for creating a world of national unity beyond division and conflict as shown by Roh's life," he added.

The leader of the PPP described Bongha as a "site of a painful history," apparently referring to the tragic death of Roh. He jumped to his death from a cliff behind his retirement home on May 23, 2009, amid a corruption probe by state prosecutors into his family and aides.

Many liberals believe that Roh suffered de facto political oppression after his retirement under a conservative administration.

The PPP chief cited the lack of "bold communication" and "spirit of unity" in today's politics and proposed that the political community set what Roh has left via his life as a "milestone."

The annual memorial ceremony used to be attended by thousands of mourners and supporters. This year, the number of attendees was minimized due to COVID-19.

Rhyu Si-min, head of the Roh Moo-hyun Foundation, expressed hope that he can hold the event along with citizens next year.

President Moon Jae-in, who was a longtime friend of Roh, meanwhile, sent condolence flowers. Attending a ceremony four years ago, Moon said it would be the last time for him to do so as a sitting president. (Yonhap)