Former South Korean president Roh Tae Woo, who went from collaborating in the 1979 coup to being the first head of state of the Asian country after the end of the military dictatorship, died on Tuesday at the age of 88, according to his team, after that the former president was recently hospitalized due to a deterioration in his health.
Roh, who ruled South Korea as president from 1988 to 1993, died of complications from various illnesses after his condition worsened while dealing with a degenerative disorder, said Kim Yon-su, director of Seoul National University Hospital, in a press conference.
Roh, a former general in the Armed Forces, contributed to the 1979 military coup, which saw Chun Doo Hwan rise to power after the vacuum created by the death of then-President Park Chung Hee. However, almost a decade later, in 1988, he became the first president to be elected by direct vote, the beginning of what would ultimately be the definitive democratization of South Korea.
He remained in office until 1993 and, during the time he was in power, he advocated governing for the ordinary citizen, a premise that the official Yonhap news agency recalls on Wednesday. Roh is also credited with new alliances with regional powers and, with him as president, the two Koreas entered the UN.
However, the shadow of the 1979 coup haunted him well into the 1990s. In 1996, both he and Chun, with whom he had shared a class at the military academy, were convicted for their involvement in both the riot and the repression of the 1980 mobilizations in favor of democracy.
The South Korean justice sentenced Roh to 17 years in prison, although only one year after the end of the trial, in 1997, he received the first pardon from the government of Kim Young Sam. In 2013, the state waived all the fines, which amounted to 260 million won in the initial sentence (about 192 million euros at current exchange rates).