Former President Kim Dae-jung died at Seoul's Severance Hospital Tuesday after a long battle with pneumonia and related complications, hospital officials said, Yonhap news agency reported.

Kim, who served as president from 1998-2003, was admitted to the hospital in western Seoul on July 13 with pneumonia and put on a respirator three days later. He underwent surgery on his bronchial tubes in late July as part of procedures to facilitate his breathing.


Beginning late Monday night, Kim's health condition suddenly deteriorated, with his heart failing intermittently, the hospital officials said. He died at 1:43 P.M. local time on Tuesday afternoon.


Kim, who died at the age of 85, is survived by his wife and former first lady Lee Hee-ho and three sons.


Kim met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il in June 2000 for the first inter-Korean summit and won the Nobel Peace Prize later that year in recognition of his lifelong fight for democracy and efforts to promote reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula.


South Korea's only Nobel laureate, Kim endured abduction, torture and multiple arrests at the hands of the nation's authoritarian rulers of the 1970s and 1980s while pushing forward its pro-democracy movement.


Kim was born to a middle-class farming family on Jan. 6, 1924, on a small island in South Jeolla Province, when Korea was still under Japanese colonial rule.


He developed the resolve to fight what he saw as an increasingly corrupt government in the late 1940s, when Syngman Rhee, South Korea's first president, began to steer the country towards authoritarianism.


Kim was stripped of his parliamentary seat in 1961 when Gen. Park Chung-hee seized control of the government through a military coup and dissolved the parliament. He was re-elected to parliament in 1963 and his early challenges to Park's iron-fisted rule put him on track for the turbulent life he was to lead.


In 1980, Kim and other leading opposition figures were arrested on charges of treason by Gen. Chun Doo-hwan, who imposed martial law as he moved to take over the presidency following the assassination of Park a year earlier. Kim was sentenced to death after being accused of fomenting an uprising in the city of Gwangju, but was later pardoned.





News Code 35418

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