Roh Moo-hyun

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Roh Moo-hyun in 2003

Roh Moo-hyun (Korean: 노무현; September 1, 1946May 23, 2009) was the president of South Korea from February 2003 to February 2008.


  • I have believed for a long time that North Korea was willing to give up nuclear weapons, and there is no change in my belief. That is, I believe that North Korea thinks it is more beneficial not to have nuclear weapons than to have them, and that if the circumstances were right, they would have no reason to possess nuclear weapons. I have no doubt about such assertions from North Korea. I think there are sufficient grounds to think so.
  • Korea-U.S. relations were important in the past and will be important in the future. We have had dark moments in our relationship and times when we needed very close cooperation. During the beginning of my term, it was a tense time when both governments needed to work very closely together to resolve these very difficult and sensitive problems between the two countries. That is why cooperation between South Korea and the U.S. was even more important.
  • In Korea, to step down from the presidency is to step down from politics. But I thought about what it means to step down. I hope that means a free man. From even before I entered politics, all I wanted was to be a free man. Another thing is that I will now be able to watch the news on TV with peace of mind.
  • It is unpredictable what course of action North Korea will take in the coming days, but no government has a policy that can never be changed. They can never be unchanged. And depending on the circumstances or conditions, any government's policy can change I think.
  • Japan's present claim to Dokdo is an act negating the complete liberation and independence of Korea. This is a matter where no compromise or surrender is possible, whatever the costs and sacrifices may be.

Excerpts from inaugural address (25 February 2003)[edit]

"Roh Moo-hyun's inauguration speech" (25 February 2003)

  • As a result of the great choice of the people, I have been given the honoured responsibility of presiding over the new administration of the republic. I am very grateful to each and every one of you; with your support, I promise to follow this great call to duty.
  • Fellow citizens. Historically, we Koreans have lived through a series of challenges and have responded to them. Having to live among big powers, the people on the Korean peninsula have had to cope with countless tribulations. For thousands of years, however, we have successfully preserved our self-respect as a nation as well as our unique culture. Within the half century since liberation from colonial rule, and despite territorial division, war, and poverty, we have built a nation that is the 12th-largest economic power in the world.
  • In recent years, we have successfully entered the age of information and knowledge, evolving from an agricultural community through the age of industrialisation. Today, however, we are at a historical turning point. We are at a crossroad of having to decide whether to take off or retreat; to move towards peace or tension.
  • The Korean Peninsula is located at the heart of the region. It is a big bridge linking China and Japan, the continent and the ocean. Such a geopolitical characteristic often caused pain for us in the past. Today, however, this same feature is offering us an opportunity. Indeed, it demands that we play a pivotal role in the age of Northeast Asia in the 21st Century.
  • We must build strength and maintain vision. That requires inexorable efforts for reform and integration. Reform is a driving force behind growth, and integration is a stepping-stone for a take-off.
  • I want to make the country a favourable place to do business and an attractive place in which to invest by reforming the markets and systems in a fair and transparent manner based on international standards.
  • The first order of business is to reform politics. We have to realise politics that respect our citizens as a genuine source of power. We should nurture a political climate in which the well-being of the people takes precedence over partisan interests.
  • I hope to see the kind of political culture that solves problems through dialogue and compromise, not through confrontation and conflict.
  • Irregularities and corruption must be eliminated not only for the sustained growth of the economy but also for the health of society. For this purpose, I will search for a structural and institutional alternative. In particular, I ask all leaders in society to seriously reflect on themselves.
  • We have overcome numerous challenges with inner strength. We have the wisdom to turn even crisis into opportunity. With such wisdom and strength, let us again overcome the challenge facing us today. Let us make future generations remember us as proud ancestors just as, today, we remember our forefathers.

Excerpts from the speech on 60th Anniversary of National Liberation (2005)[edit]

"Address by President Roh Moo-hyun on the 60th Anniversary of National Liberation" (2005)

  • The fundamental reason why Korea was colonized was the imperialistic world order that swept the world at the time. Much as the imperialistic waves had been rough and high, we would not have lost our country if we had been prepared internally to meet the challenge.
  • The country failed to nurture its strength because the ruling group that refused to make accommodations for any changes whatsoever and because those who had vested interests also allied with the ruling group. Indulged in exclusive and dogmatic ideologies, the ruling group rejected alternative thoughts and systems; they did not even spare the lives of those advocate new ways of thinking. Their justifications might have been grand; unfortunately, however, their conclusions were always to protect the vested interests.
  • Korea will not be in jeopardy for a lack of strength. Developments in science and technology as well as the fostering of able manpower will be accelerated. Democracy and market economy will progress further. Based on these grounds, the creativity and diversity of the Korean people will fully blossom. The nation is steadily developing independent military power sufficient to safeguard itself.
  • No dogmatic thinking will be able to prevent social changes any more. No dictatorship will emerge again to trample civil rights and repress freedom. Illegal acts committed by the government agencies and the collusion of the Government and business and that of the government and the press will all become matters of the past.
  • By and large, Korean society still has three elements of division. The first element is the scar stemming from the historic legacy of division, the second is the structural division caused by the political process, and the third is the division caused by social and economic imbalance and disparity.
  • The divisive structure of our society resulting from the political process is regional divisiveness and the confrontational political culture. Until they are eliminated, it will be hard to shake off the endless division and confrontation.
  • Economic and social imbalance could become a serious threat to the future of the nation. The gaps across classes and regions, companies in terms of their income and assets, and the information access and opportunities are widening every day. Given the present trend, bipolarization will cause unmanageable frictions and divisions and could even cripple the base for sustainable growth.
  • Our people have demonstrated unrivaled competency in creativity and ardor. Our bid to usher in a transparent and fair society has entered into a successful direction. However, we have been less than successful in terms of dialogues, compromises, concessions and cooperation.
  • History now gives us another calling. It is none other than putting an end to the history of divisiveness and opening an age of national unity. It is also to build a springboard to overcome the age of national division and usher in a new age of national unification for peace and prosperity. I am going to work with every citizen to carry out that historic mission.

About Roh Moo-hyun[edit]

  • However, with great speaking skills and strong Busan dialect, the former human rights lawyer was always confident, in fact bold enough to throw his nameplate in a protest against military dictator Chun Doo-hwan in 1989. The politician was nicknamed "fool" and called a "roly poly" who never gave up his long-cherished dream: break the rigid wall of regionalism between the nation's eastern Gyeongsang Provinces and the western Jeolla Provinces.
  • When I drink a little, I sometimes recall my old days. Then I ask myself: 'What does Roh Moo-hyun mean in my life?' He really defined my life. My life would have changed a lot if I didn't meet him. So he is my destiny.
  • I painted a kind and sympathetic man. I painted a man who respected the fundamental rights of all citizens and today I pray that his vision for human rights for Korea will extend North across the border. I painted a strong leader who was not afraid to speak his mind, even to the president of the United States.
  • Roh attached importance to the development of the China-ROK relations during his presidency. The Chinese government and people will remember the active efforts and great contributions he had made to promote the overall development of the China-ROK relations.
  • When he came to office, Roh appeared to offer South Korea a new start. He was relatively youthful, independent and seemed ready to tackle the country’s deeply embedded political corruption. In addition to promising not to “kowtow to the Americans” he also supported the “sunshine” policy of diplomatic approach towards North Korea. Yet Roh’s term was riddled with problems. At one point he threatened to quit and on another he voiced his fears that he was too “incompetent” to serve as the president. There was also controversy when he and his supporters left the Millennium Democratic Party in 2003 to form a new party, the Uri Party. His decision to send South Korean troops to Iraq was deeply unpopular while his diplomatic pursuit of the north was seized on by his opportunist as appeasement.

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