Roh Tae Woo

(b. 1932)

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(b. 4 Dec. 1932).

President of the Republic of Korea (South Korea) 1988–93 Born in Talsong, North Kyongsang province, he enlisted in the South Korean army, graduating from its military academy in 1955. He rose steadily within army ranks to become a general. In 1979, he assisted General Chun Doo Hwan in the December coup, becoming commander of the powerful secret service (‘Defence Security Command’) in 1980. He joined the newly founded Democratic Justice Party in 1981, retiring from the army in order to pursue a political career. He held various ministerial posts, and from 1983 supervised the organization of the 1988 Olympic Games. In 1987, he won the country's first direct presidential elections for sixteen years, succeeding Chun in the first peaceful transition of power since World War II. He surprised his people by introducing political reform, inaugurating the Sixth Republic in 1988. He also relaxed the country's foreign policy, opening dialogues with the Soviet Union, and even North Korea. Nevertheless, student demonstrations continued unabated, in protest against human rights violations and political and economic corruption, forcing him to retire. In 1996, he was sentenced to imprisonment for 22 years and 6 months on charges of corruption and for his pivotal role in the brutal suppression of the Kwangju uprising of 1980, in which around eight thousand protesters were killed. He was pardoned by President-elect Kim Dae Jung in late 1997.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).

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