2000 Kim Dae-jung
(3 December 1925 – 18 August 2009)
of South Korea from 1998 to 2003, and the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize
recipient. A Roman Catholic
since 1957, he has been called the "Nelson Mandela
for his long-standing opposition to authoritarian rule.
The son of a middle-class farmer, Kim was born in Mokpo
in what was then the Jeolla
province; the city is now in South Jeolla
province. Kim graduated from Mokpo Commercial High School in 1943 at the top of the class. After working as a clerk for a Japanese-owned shipping company during the Japanese occupation of Korea, he became its owner and became very rich. Kim escaped Communist capture during the Korean War
Kim first entered politics in 1954 during the administration of Korea's first president, Syngman Rhee
. Although he was elected as a representative for the National Assembly
in 1961, a military coup led by Park Chung-hee
, who later assumed dictatorial
powers, voided the elections.
He was able to win a seat in the House in the subsequent elections in 1963 and 1967 and went on to become an eminent opposition leader. As such, he was the natural opposition candidate for the country's presidential election in 1971. He nearly defeated Park, despite several handicaps on his candidacy which were imposed by the ruling regime.
A very talented orator, Kim could command unwavering loyalty among his supporters. His staunchest support came from the Jeolla
region, where he reliably garnered upwards of 95% of the popular vote, a record that has remained unsurpassed in South Korean politics.