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Former South Korean president Roh Tae-woo dies

Roh Tae-woo has died, aged 88

Roh Tae-woo has died, aged 88

Former South Korean President Roh Tae-woo, who played a pivotal role in his country's transition to democratic rule, died of natural causes on Tuesday at the age of 88, a hospital in Seoul confirmed.

Roh, a decorated veteran who served in both the Korean War and the Vietnam War, was president from 1988 to 1993 as the handpicked successor of dictator Chun Doo-hwan, whom he had helped to power in a 1979 military coup.

He was elected to the post in the 1987 elections, having done his best to dissociate himself from Chun in the face of massive pro-democracy rallies by announcing significant political reforms including the direct election of the president.

Abject end to presidency

His term in office was marked by his efforts to forge diplomatic ties with the communist bloc despite South Korea's deeply anti-communist stance due to its rivalry with the North. He was also the driving force behind the 1988 Seoul Olympics, while South Korea became an UN member under his presidency.

However, after he was succeeded by former democracy activist Kim Young-sam, both he and Chun faced charges of treason for their roles in the 1970 military coup and the 1980 Gwangjuarmy massacre of pro-democracy demonstrators, as well as of massive corruption.

They were convicted in 1996. Roh initially received a 22 year prison sentence, while Chun was given a death sentence.

But both were released the following year under a presidential pardon.

Roh disappeared from public view some 20 years ago after being diagnosed with prostate cancer and suffering several other illnesses.

Roh is survived by his wife Kim Ok-sook and his two children, a son and a daughter.

tj/aw (Reuters, AFP, AP)