Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Digression: Remembering Kim Dae-Jung

I was sad to see the news of the passing of Kim Dae-Jung, former president of South Korea. I admired him for his role in building democracy in South Korea, and his efforts to reconcile with North Korea.

I saw him speak at a political rally during the election campaign in 1987. I was an exchange student in Japan, and decided to travel to Pusan, South Korea to sightsee. Kim and his supporters were part of the opposition to the government candidate, Roh Tae Woo. I discovered that Kim was having a political rally, so went to see him speak. A student I met there translated for me. Kim talked about the need to restore relations with North Korea, saying that they weren't enemies, but friends and family. At the time this was a radical thing for a South Korean politician to say. I estimated that there were about 50,000 at the rally.

Kim lost the election that year as the opposition candidates split the reform vote, but he won the presidency 10 years later. His life reminds us that one person can make a difference for the better.

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