Sunday, May 24, 2009

Roh Moo-hyun Dead

Roh Moo-huyn
Ex-President of South Korea
(Image from SBS News)

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.
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.
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.

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.

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At 12:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps they followed the advice, "Now if we can just persuade South Korea's 'progressives' to look through this 'telescope' and see the truth."

Then. It might be understandable.


At 1:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

this is a bit journalistic. were his metaphoric significance in modern history of South Korea, it would be easier to understand why so many people previously critical of him or disagreeing with political stance now become so shocked and depressed.

At 2:51 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

JK, you think that he looked through the telescope?

Jeffery Hodges

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At 2:56 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Anonymous (not JK), could you elaborate? I'm not clear on your meaning.

Do you mean Roh's significance as perhaps the first truly democratic president of South Korea, one who rose from poverty to great power -- a metaphor for Korea's own rise?

I've thought about that, too. Do you think that Koreans see Roh that way?

Jeffery Hodges

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At 5:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not sure Jeff, I consider that "introspection" has different connotations/meanings/consequence management patterns where our two sides of the Pacific are concerned.

Mind, I do wish it hadn't come to this. Just an observation. But yes, in a sort of odd confluent way - as your earlier post suggested. I think he may have "seen the elephant."


At 6:01 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Possibly, JK, or he may have thrown his life away out of shame . . . as his last note perhaps implies.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 6:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Remember the old American history thing Jeff, "I came, I saw, I conquered" then - "I have seen the elephant."

(The elephant not being a symbol in the modern sense - rather one of hopelessness, and what "must surely" follow.

The folks who left Arkansas bound for California - via Mountain Meadows, though assurededly by a different route - knew this.


At 7:57 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

The elephant, JK, always comes with a lot of baggage . . . not least of all its trunk.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Precisely Dr. Hodges.

Anyone who takes up "political office" in Vo-Tech (or whichever field) must always remember that "trunks" constitute baggage - and "wins by a nose" don't always wind up equal.

Now just personally, I think that anyone who might be attracted to politics always misconstrues the "nose factor." Any Party. Any Cause. (Well "Great Causes" anyway.)


At 8:59 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Be all that as it may . . . and it may be very important . . . former president Roh's death is a tragedy for Korea, its first truly democratic president undone by a flaw that he blindly thought not his own: dishonesty.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is not a true proof of Roh's committed of suicide.
How could he have a 11Cm long wound on his vertex?Why was there no blood on the rocks and the ground?Why was there blood on the cloth which was announced his but it was taken by the police to have taken a photo as a proof?How the wild plants on the ground where was announced the spot of Roh's body was found,is natural and not damanaged?In my opinion,Roh is assassinated by more than two people.

At 7:51 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Anonymous, to be perfectly frank with you, I must say that your comment is written in such poor English that understanding your specific points is nearly impossible.

Your general point is clear enough, of course, but not your specific reasons.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 12:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was not a suicide
Suicide note in PC
Bodyguard's lie and didn't call 911
moved to Pusan unv hospital which takes longer than samsung.

At 12:23 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Anonymous, for your input.

Jeffery Hodges

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