Former President Roh Tae-woo, who served as the 13th president from 1988 to 1993, passed away on the afternoon of the 26th at the age of 89. Former President Roh, who was born in Daegu in 1932, has repeatedly been hospitalized and discharged due to chronic illness. On that day, he received emergency treatment at Seoul National University Hospital due to worsening of the condition, but he did not recover and died.
Former President Roh lived a tumultuous life in which light and shade intersect. Life itself shows our modern political history of ‘military regime and democratization’. Together with former President Chun Doo-hwan, his classmate, he led the 12/12 rebellion in 1979 and was promoted to commander. During the 5th Republic, he enjoyed the status as the second in power in the government. Former President Roh made the ‘June 29 Declaration’ in 1987 that accepted the constitutional amendment to the direct presidential system. Although it had the character of surrendering to the democratization movement, it has the meaning of opening the era of democratization by accommodating the aspirations of the people. In the presidential election that year, the 6th Republic was born by winning a four-party confrontation with the 3 Kims (Kim Young-sam, Kim Dae-jung, and Kim Jong-pil) with the catchphrase of ‘The Age of Great Ordinary People’. Northern diplomacy, along with the successful hosting of the Seoul Olympics, is considered the greatest achievement during his tenure. It has established diplomatic ties with more than 30 communist countries. In particular, following the former Soviet Union in September 1990, diplomatic relations with China were established in August 1992, broadening the horizons of Korean diplomacy. Northern diplomacy contributed to the creation of peace on the Korean Peninsula by simultaneously joining the United Nations and drawing up a basic agreement between the two Koreas. Also, politically, in 1990, there was a ‘three-party coalition’ that merged the Democratic Party, the Unification Democratic Party, and the New Democratic Republican Party into a two-party system.
However, after leaving office, he was sentenced to prison for leading the 12/12 rebellion and armed suppression of the 5/18 pro-democracy movement. Survivors include his wife Kim Ok-sook, daughter So-young and son Jae-heon. The mortuary will be set up at the funeral home of Seoul National University Hospital and will receive mourners on the morning of the 27th.
The Soviet Union and China boldly join hands with the ‘Northern Policy’… Expanding Korean diplomatic horizons
Established diplomatic ties with communist countries
1990 Summit with Gorbachev
In 1992, diplomatic relations with China were normalized.
An opportunity to overcome security risks on the Korean Peninsula
Companies rush into the communist bloc
Open up the blocked Korean economy
Declaration of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula
Simultaneous accession to the UN by North and South Korea
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs “I express my deepest condolences”
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One of the most outstanding achievements during Roh Tae-woo’s tenure in office was northern diplomacy. For the first time since the establishment of the government, formal diplomatic relations with a communist country were established and various foundations were laid for inter-Korean relations. Amid the turbulent times when the Soviet Union collapsed and the communist society in Eastern Europe disintegrated, former President Roh did not miss the time and greatly expanded the horizon of Korea’s diplomacy. As a result, during his tenure in office, Korea’s diplomatic ties increased significantly from 100 to 130. At the time of his inauguration in February 1988, former President Roh said, “We will widen the channels of international cooperation even in continental countries where there have been no exchanges.” and promoted northern diplomacy in earnest. Choi Ho-jung, a former orthodox diplomat and former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Unification (small high school), was entrusted with the lead direction. Starting with Hungary in February 1989, relations with seven Eastern European countries were normalized, starting with Poland, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and Romania, as well as Albania in August 1991.
The highlight of northern diplomacy was the establishment of diplomatic ties with the Soviet Union in October 1990. Former President Roh visited Moscow for the first time as a Korean president in December 1990, three months after the establishment of diplomatic ties between Korea and the Soviet Union, and held a summit meeting with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. At this time, former President Roh inspecting the Soviet Red Army honor guard at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow is one of the most important scenes in the history of Korean diplomacy in the 20th century. In August 1992, diplomatic relations with China were also normalized.
At the site of northern diplomacy, which culminated in the establishment of diplomatic ties with China and the Soviet Union, there were hidden efforts of outstanding diplomats, including former Minister Choi, the first Soviet ambassador to the Soviet Union (former Minister of Foreign Affairs), and Kim Jong-hwi, chief of foreign affairs and security. However, it is also evaluated that the reason these diplomats were able to play on the continent was because of former President Roh, who recognized the importance of northern diplomacy and spared no support. One senior diplomat said, “The period when Korean diplomacy shined the most on the world stage in the 20th century was during the presidency of former President Roh Tae-woo. He sympathized with the report from the diplomatic authorities that emphasized the necessity of northern diplomacy, and diplomats can freely engage with communist countries. “He laid the groundwork for us to improve our relationship,” he said.
Former President Roh’s northern policy was not only foreign policy. In fact, it was part of the economic policy to ‘open the door for the Korean economy’. In fact, in the early 1990s, Korea’s trade saw a trade surplus only in the Eastern Bloc, including China, and was in a deficit in other regions, including the United States. Domestic companies, which had stalled for a while after repeating explosive growth in the 1980s, began to rush into China, the Soviet Union, and European communist countries on the wind of northern diplomacy. The Moon Jae-in administration is also focusing on expanding exchanges and cooperation with China and Russia by declaring the ‘New Northern Policy’ for boldly expanding cooperation with China and Russia.
The achievements of northern diplomacy also had an impact on opening up the frozen inter-Korean relations. Afterward, although the light of the day was faded by North Korea’s nuclear development, then President Roh greatly improved inter-Korean relations by joining the United Nations at the same time, holding the first inter-Korean high-level talks, and adopting the Inter-Korean Basic Agreement and the Declaration of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
After the first high-level inter-Korean summit in September 1989, former President Roh set out to re-establish inter-Korean relations, which led to the adoption of the Inter-Korean Basic Agreement at the end of 1991, which declared inter-Korean reconciliation and non-aggression, and the joint declaration of denuclearization. In October 1989, then Prime Minister Kang Young-hoon visited Pyongyang for the first time as a South Korean prime minister, held the second meeting, and met with President Kim Il-sung. Since then, the prime ministers of South and North Korea have traveled to Seoul and Pyongyang eight times to create the Inter-Korean Basic Agreement. Former President Roh also led to the simultaneous accession of the two Koreas to the United Nations in 1991.
Meanwhile, China expressed its condolences over the death of former President Roh, the organizer of diplomatic relations between Korea and China. “We express our deepest condolences to the death of former President Roh and express our sincere condolences to his family,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said in a statement. “Ex-President Roh was friendly to China, and he greatly contributed to the establishment of diplomatic relations between Korea and China and the development of bilateral relations,” he said. Foreign media also reported the news of former President Roh’s death as an emergency article on the same day. Japan’s Kyodo News reported that during his tenure as president, he carried out a foreign policy called ‘Northern Policy’ to reach North Korea’s allies, China and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
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