Kim Dae-jung (born December 3, 1925) is a South Korean politician. Long an opposition leader, he became president (after Kim Young-sam) in 1997.
Early political career
He first entered politics in 1954, opposing the policies of Syngman Rhee. Although he was elected as a representative for the parliament in 1961, a military coup led by Park Chunghee made it void. He rose to become an eminent opposition leader during 1960s, which culminated in running a presidential campaign in 1971. He managed a close race against Park Chunghee despite several handicaps imposed by the ruling dictatorship. He suffered imprisonments, kidnapping, and death threats in the 1970s and was banned from politics for most of the decade.
In 1980, Kim was sentenced to death on charges of sedition and conspiracy in the wake of another coup by Chun Doo-hwan and a popular uprising in Gwangju, his political stronghold. With the intervention of the United States government, the sentence was commuted to 20 years in prison and later he was given exile to the U.S.
Road to the presidency
After his return to South Korea in 1985, he resumed his role as one of the principal leaders of the political opposition. When the first democratic presidential election was held in 1987 after ex-general Chun Doo-hwan's retirement, Kim Dae-jung and Kim Young-sam, his longtime political comrade and rival, ran against each other. That split the opposition vote and enabled ex-general Roh Tae-woo, Chun Doo-hwan's hand-picked successor, to win.
Kim Dae-jung made another failed bid for the presidency in 1992, this time solely against Kim Young-sam who became the successor of Roh Tae-woo. However in his fourth bid in 1997, he finally won the election to replace Kim Young-sam as president.
The preceding presidents Park Chunghee, Chun Doo-hwan, Roh Tae-woo, and Kim Young-sam all came from the relatively wealthy Gyeongsang region. Kim Dae-jung was the first president to serve out his full term who came from the Jeolla region in the southwest, an area that traditionally has been neglected and less developed, at least partly because of discriminatory policies of previous presidents.
Kim Dae-jung took office in the midst of the economic crisis that hit South Korea in the final year of Kim Young-sam's term. He vigorously pushed economic reform and restructuring to revitalize the economy, yielding some noticeable results in the South Korean economy.
His policy of engagement with North Korea is called the Sunshine Policy. In 2000, he participated in the first North-South presidential summit with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Il, talks for which he won the Nobel Peace Prize.