The President of the Republic of Korea.


Now 77 years old, Kim Dae-Jung was born on December 3rd, 1925. He lived in his family home until moving to the city of Mokpo to begin his education. His father worked on a Japanese owned farm, and most of his pay was not given in monetary compensation but in the form of a share of the farm's produce.

At this time Korea was under the rule of the Japanese, and such arrangements were not uncommon, with native Koreans serving Japanese employers and landowners. The young Kim Dae-Jung did not see why this should be the case, however. At one point he was suspended from school as punishment for criticising the Japanese and their occupation of his country.

After completing his elementary school and high school education, Kim Dae-Jung started work with a shipping organisation. Being involved in the profession meant that he escaped conscription into the Japanese army during World War II. He went on to be successful in shipping and publishing after the Korean War. It was at this point that he became involved in politics.

He was elected into the National Assembly in 1961, just three days before a military coup overthrew the government.

Two years later, General Elections were held. Kim Dae-Jung stood for office in opposition to the military government. He was elected to the country's parliament, and held administrative posts in the Democratic Party while the various opposition groups consolidated into a unit which could defeat the government - Sinmindang, the New Democratic party.

The newly formed party needed a strong leader, and Kim Dae-Jung had built a reputation as a courageous politician. As the head of the opposition's Policy Planning Committee he had proven his skills and shown himself to be an exceptional visionary. He was the obvious choice.

In the 1971 General Elections Kim Dae-Jung and Sinmindang came agonisingly close to winning the race, but the ruling party of Park Jeong-Hui tampered with ballot boxes and harassed voters, cheating the New Democratic Party out of the presidency.

Threatened by the close result of the 1971 election, President Park Jeong-Hui cracked down on political dissent. He banned all political assembly and activism, declaring opposition parties such as Sinmindang to be illegal organisations. He passed a law declaring himself President for life, and awarding himself total power over every aspect of the Korean government.

As head of the main opposition party, Kim Dae-Jung was an unacceptable threat to the power of Park Jeong-Hui. He was abducted and imprisoned, with Park Jeong-Hui's plan being to have him executed.

International pressure forced Kim Dae-Jung's release, however he was placed under house arrest in order to prevent him from stirring up opposition to the ruling regime. This effort did not succeed, however. Kim Dae-Jung released a document on March 1st, 1976 along with other opposition figures calling for democracy and an end to Park Jeong-Hui's dictatorship. For this he was imprisoned for almost three years.

Following his release he was once again placed under house arrest. It was in this period that Park Heong-Hi was assassinated by one of his bodyguards. The new regime had Jim Dae-Jung imprisoned and sentenced to death. International outrage led to his exile from Korea instead, and he temporarily lived in America.

Kim Dae-Jung refused to submit to Park Jeong-Hui's tyranny, however, and he returned to Korea in 1985. By now the pro-democracy movement was becoming increasingly vocal, staging massive demonstrations against the government.

Eventually the ruling party submitted to the demands of the masses and reintroduced elections. However, these were far from free and fair. It took four attempts for Kim Dae-Jung to become President in 1997. His victory was the culmination of a long and bloody struggle against oppression.


President Kim Dae-Jung believes in human rights and democracy. He has made efforts to champion these principles in his dealings with governments in Asia and around the world.

He has always said that he believes in reconciliation and the forgiveness of one's enemies. After being sentenced to death for his political activism he wrote a letter to his son saying:

"Only the truly magnanimous and strong are capable of forgiving and loving. Let us persevere, then, praying always that God will help us to have the strength to love and forgive our enemies. Let us together, in this way, become the loving victors."

This letter was later published in his book, "Prison Writings."

In the year 2000 Kim Dae-Jung was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Although he had been considered many times for the prize, he was given the accolade for his attempts to reconcile the Korean Republic with neighbouring North Korea.

He holds Christian religious beliefs.


Since coming to power, President Kim Dae-Jung has -

  • Ordered the Korean law enforcement agencies not to detain any suspect without first being given permission by the court.
  • Revoked a law requiring any person suspecting of being a Communist intelligence agent to renounce Communism before they could be released. Kim Dae-Jung regarded this as a violation of a person's rights to express their political beliefs.
  • Released a number of intelligence agents back to North Korea.
  • Protected the privacy of the Korean people by introducing far stricter controls on communications interception than are found in other countries, such as America or the United Kingdom.
  • Oversaw the renovation of the country's prisons and drafted several pieces of legislation to ensure that prisoner's rights are upheld. In addition, he introduced programmes designed to allow prisoners to develop new skills and become useful members of society upon their release.
  • Removed restrictions on teachers' membership of trade unions.
  • Started working with the National Assembly to set up a government organisation which will ensure that the human rights of Korean citizens are upheld.
  • Launched an investigation into the deaths of prisoners and activists during the years of dictatorial governments.


    President Kim Dae-Jung is married to Lee Hee-Ho. He has three sons.