“Former President Kim Dae-jung, a towering figure in South Korea's struggle for democracy who won the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize for seeking reconciliation with the communist North, died today at the age of 85.
An official at a Seoul hospital treating Kim for pneumonia confirmed the death. Local media reports said he died of heart failure.
In his final year, Kim saw his efforts unravel as relations with the North headed back into the freezer under the South's current conservative President Lee Myung-bak.
The former political prisoner, popularly referred to by his initials 'DJ', was elected South Korea's president in December 1997, a victory that marked the first time in South Korea that power had shifted from a ruling party president to a president from the opposition.
Internationally, Kim is best known for his historic handshake and embrace of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in June 2000, at the first summit meeting of the leaders of the two countries on the divided peninsula.
The meeting was the culmination of the 'Sunshine Policy' that won Kim the Nobel prize - his idea of prodding the North forward with the promise of incentives and reducing the strain of eventual unification through economic integration.
His Mother was an ‘Unwed Mother’
“The exact date of Kim's birth is uncertain, but several biographies have it listed as January 6, 1924.
He spent his early years on a small island called Hawi to an unwed mother who ran a small shop and tavern serving workers who extracted salt from sea water.
The family later moved to Mokpo, on the southwest part of the mainland, where Kim excelled at school. He did not go to college, and instead worked at a shipping company to support his family.”
Korean War Baby Comments:
Former President Kim Dae Jung was the first Korean President to really address the issues of Adoption. (See Tobias Hubinette’s excellent reference, “Comforting An Orphaned Nation”). He invited a group of 29 Adoptees to the Blue House actually apologizing for the fact that at that time over 150,000 had been sent to other countries(http://www.tobiashubinette.se/kim_dae_jung_and_adoption.pdf). Moved by his own realization that “HIS” unwed mother might have sent him away, his motives represent many of today’s Korean people. One wonders how the history of South Korea would have been very very different without his presence in the Political scene.
No matter what your view on Adoption Issues or Conservative or Liberal, the passing of former President Kim Dae Jung represents
‘how the mighty have fallen’. Korea has lost one of its truly great statesmen, the Nobel Peace Prize winner who in his dynamic life almost brought peace to the Korean people. Will his death help bring the divided people closer? That would be a fitting legacy to the architect of the Sunshine Policy. Rest in Peace.