South Korean Nobel laureate ex-prez dies

SEOUL: Kim Dae-Jung, a renowned democracy campaigner who survived assassination attempts and a death sentence to win South Korea’s presidency and the Nobel peace prize, died today aged 85.

His heart began failing at 1:35 pm and stopped minutes later. Kim, who was president from 1998-2003, had been admitted to hospital on July 13 with pneumonia and related complications.

He held South Korea’s first-ever summit with communist North

Korea in 2000 and was awarded the Nobel prize later that year.

Past leaders, including the man whose government condemned Kim to death, also paid tribute to Kim — a towering figure in South Korea’s long struggle for democracy against army-backed

autocrats. Kim campaigned strenuously against the 1961-1979 rule of dictator Park Chung-Hee and in August 1973 was kidnapped by agents of the Korean CIA from a Tokyo hotel.

He was about to be dumped in the sea but swift intervention by Washington and Tokyo saved his life. In May 1980, during Chun Doo-Hwan’s army-backed rule, Kim was thrown into prison on charges of treason. He was sentenced to death by a martial law court but reprieved following strong US pressure.

“I hope former President Kim, who underwent a stormy political life, will rest peacefully in the bosom of God,” Chun told reporters.