Thousands mourn for Roh Moo-hyun

SEOUL: Tens of thousands of South Koreans today turned out in Seoul for the funeral of former President Roh Moo-hyun, who killed himself last week.

Top officials attended the ceremony, while huge crowds filled the streets.

“Mr Roh dedicated himself to democracy and he would not be forgotten,” PM Han Seung-soo said in a eulogy. Roh Moo-hyun jumped off a cliff last Saturday amid allegations, which he denied, of bribery. His death has caused immense shock in South Korea.

Roh was president between 2003 and 2008, when his term ended. Current President Lee Myung-bak’s Grand National Party won the subsequent election, forcing Roh’s Uri party from office.

Supporters say Roh was investigated for political reasons and some blame Lee for a probe that they believe drove the former president to suicide.

Authorities feared protests and some 15,000 riot police were on stand-by for the funeral.Some scuffles were reported and there was booing as Lee laid a flower for his predecessor.

Millions of people have already visited altars around the country to pray for Roh.

Early today, the funeral procession left Bongha, the village to which he retired, for the journey to Seoul. As the hearse arrived in the capital, tens of thousands of supporters wearing yellow — his campaign colour —lined the streets. The funeral was held at a former palace. Delivering the eulogy, Han said that Roh had “spent his life fighting for human rights, democracy and the end of authoritarianism”.

“We will strive to follow your last wishes for reconciliation, unity and a better nation,” he said. Crowds watched the service on a huge television screen.


• 2003: Roh Moo-hyun elected president

• 2004: Moo-hyun suspended by MPs, then reinstated by court

• 2008: Moo-hyun steps down as president

• April 2009: Moo-hyun quizzed for alleged bribery

• 23 May 2009: Moo-hyun dies while climbing a mountain