(LEAD) South Korea bids farewell to former President Roh
(ATTN: CHANGE title, title; UPDATES on funeral ceremony; ADD photos)
By Lee Haye-ah and Kim Seung-yeon
SEOUL, Oct. 30 (Yonhap) – South Korea bid farewell to the late former President Roh Tae-woo on Saturday, marking the end of a five-day national funeral for a leader who sparked both criticism and praise for his role in organizing a coup and then embracing democracy.
The funeral ceremony for Roh, who died on Tuesday at the age of 88, began at 11 a.m. at Peace Plaza in Seoul’s East Olympic Park, a symbolic location for him as it is where the Games are held. 1988 Summer Olympics were successfully held during his five years. term.
His body was brought from Seoul National University Hospital, where he died of chronic illness after episodes of prostate cancer, cerebellar atrophy and asthma.
On the way to the ceremony, a Lincoln limousine carrying Roh’s body, along with a convoy, made a brief stop at Roh’s residence in western Seoul, as part of a funeral tradition, which was attended by his family and close associates.
The funeral procession entered the Olympic Park, the guard of honor carefully carrying the coffin to the plaza where a funeral song played by an army orchestra resounded on the site.
“Today’s funeral should be an occasion for mourning for the deceased, and an occasion to reflect on a new story, a story of truth and a story of reconciliation and unity,” Prime Minister Kim Boo said -kyum, head of the state funeral committee, in a statement. a eulogy.
“Today we once again realize the solemn fact that no one is immune from history,” Kim said.
Roh, who was the last general to become president of South Korea from 1988 to 1993, leaves behind a mixed legacy.
He has come under heavy criticism for helping his predecessor Chun Doo-hwan seize power in a 1979 military coup and ruthlessly suppress a pro-democracy uprising in southwestern Gwangju town. Next year.
He was also praised for restoring the direct presidential vote, through which he was elected, and for establishing ties with post-Cold War socialist states, including the Soviet Union and China.
In the eulogy, Kim asked Gwangju’s victims and their families to understand the government’s decision to hold a state funeral for Roh, noting that Roh expressed an apology and forgiveness through his will.
“We fully understand those of you who oppose state funerals,” he said. “Despite the deceased’s many accomplishments as president, we simply cannot mourn his death today as there are still many tasks to be solved by our community.”
“Yet we know that true reconciliation begins when we discover the truth and ask for the understanding and forgiveness of the victims (…) the past is not buried but lives as a story that our community builds together,” added Kim.
The funeral ceremony was conducted in accordance with strict COVID-19 distancing rules. About 50 people, including Roh’s widow and former first lady Kim Ok-suk, her daughter and son, close associates of Roh and senior government officials, attended the ceremony.
Roh will be cremated after the ceremony before being buried. The government has not yet announced where Roh will be buried, although his family have reportedly searched for a site on Unification Hill in the border town of Paju, 30 kilometers north of Seoul.
The tourist and natural attraction was designed under Roh as part of his administration’s efforts to promote peace with North Korea.
President Moon Jae-in was absent from the debates as he is currently visiting Europe.
His spokesperson said earlier that he had prayed for the deceased and sent words of condolence to the bereaved family while noting that Roh had “not some historical flaws” but also achievements.
In his will, Roh apologized to the victims of the crackdown in Gwangju, which, according to official conservative data, left more than 200 dead and 1,800 others injured.
The government’s decision to hold a state funeral sparked protests from critics who said the deceased did not deserve the honor. State funerals are paid for by the government.
By law, Roh is not eligible for burial in a national cemetery because he was convicted of crimes, including bribery and mutiny, and served a prison sentence before being pardoned in 1997.