Roh Moo-hyun Dead
As everyone is doubtless already aware, Ex-President Roh Moo-hyun commited suicide yesterday by leaping from the 30-meter-high Owl Cliff on Mt. Bongha near his home in the village of Bongha, which lies in the southeast of Korea not far from Busan. Apparently, he jumped around 6:40 in the morning, was taken to Seyoung Hospital by 7:00, was tranferred to Pusan National University Hospital by 8:13, and was pronounced dead a little over an hour later, around 9:30.
My wife was checking the news on her computer around 9:45 and saw a rumor of Roh's death by suicide but found nothing certain. I suggested that we turn on the televised news, and after convincing En-Uk that Saturday morning cartoons on the Disney Channel were not the most important thing at the moment, we switched channels and watched early reports of Roh's death on national news. Since I needed English-language news, I went to the Marmot's blog and saw that an entry had been posted at 9:50, so I left a message at 9:54 asking for details, then another at the updated blog entry at 10:49 to inform others that the online reports seen by my wife had mentioned the strong possibility of suicide and that the televised news was reporting a suicide note.
That all turned out to be true, and Sonagi has employed her Korean expertise to post an entry at the Marmot's blog offering an English translation of Roh's suicide note:
I am indebted to so many people.Since he says that he had "thought about this for a long time," I guess that he was the only one not surprised by his suicide, but in retrospect, this fatal decision was predictable, for a lot of prominent Koreans who lose face commit suicide, and Roh was under investigation for corruption -- a mortal blow to his image as Mr. Incorruptible.
A lot of people have suffered because of me.
I can't fathom their suffering more in the future.
The rest of my life will only be a burden.
I can't do anything because of my poor health. I can't even read or write anything.
Don't be too sad. Life and death are naturally one.
Don't be sorry. Don't hold grudges against anyone. It's fate. Cremate me and erect a small gravestone near my home. I've thought about this for a long time.
According to Robert Koehler, host of the Marmot's blog, "Roh apparently asked his bodyguard Lee Byeong-choon for a smoke right before he jumped." Somehow, perhaps because this was the last personal contact sought out by Roh -- privately soliciting a smoke for a penultimate moment of quiet reflection -- that final request personalizes his death for me.
I wonder what he was thinking in that moment. That he'd failed as a statesman and as a person? If I'd been there on that precipice and privy to his thoughts, I'd have asked him if he really wished to cap his failures with the ultimate admission of defeat. Despite his suicide note, this last step into history wasn't fate. Roh could have chosen to go on living and thereby face his problems with dignity. And who knows how he might have been judged in ten or twenty years? Even Richard Nixon, a far more corrupt politician, eventually achieved the standing of elder statesman.
I feel sorry for his family and friends, and I also feel sorry for South Korea. I can't feel especially sorry for Roh because he left family and friends behind to clean up his mess, but this death is tragic, and I do feel sad about that.
Anyway, rest in peace, Roh Moo-hyun.
UPDATE: The guard has altered his story a couple of times, once saying that he left Roh to accompany a hiker down the mountain path but now saying that Roh asked him to see if the local Buddhist monk was in the mountain temple, so the entire truth might be yet to emerge.