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PacNet #40 – South Korea’s Roh Moo-hyun: An Impossible Idealist

The death of Roh Moo-hyun, the 16th president of the Republic of Korea (2003-2008), is a huge shock to South Korea’s political world. A human rights lawyer with no college degree, Roh campaigned to revolutionize Korean politics and society by promoting clean politics, fighting corruption, and challenging personal and elite ties as the basis for advancement in Korean society.  His political idealism was both profoundly attractive and disappointing to the South Korean public since he ultimately became a victim of the flaws in the Korean system he had set out to overcome.  His apparent suicide following revelations of personal corruption is a stunning political and personal tragedy, with mixed reverberations for Korean politics.