By Kang Hyun-kyung
Former President Kim Dae-jung passed away, but the iconic legacy of forgiveness, reconciliation and unity he left to the country would be passed on next generations, said a former lawmaker Sunday.
Calling Kim an inspiring leader, Park Young-sook, a former vice chairwoman of the now-defunct Party for Peace and
Democracy (PPD), said the late Kim proved with his life that only a real, strong man would be able to forgive and love people who once persecuted him for undeserved reasons.
"Mr. President had contributed to improving human rights conditions in Myanmar and East Timor and made South and North Korea reconcile. He became the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize due to these efforts.
"Having demonstrated that forgiveness is the most beautiful thing in this world, Kim himself had defended peace,'' Park said in a eulogy to Kim's state funeral held in the National Assembly.
A former lawmaker, Park, 77, joined the PPD which was created by former President Kim back in 1987, along with other politicians.
Kim's group founded the party after he and another former President Kim Young-sam failed to pick a unified candidate to run in the presidential election on the opposition party's ticket in the 1987 election.
The late Kim unsuccessfully ran in the election on the PPD's ticket.
Park said that democracy came to blossom in Korea due to Kim's sacrifice and tears, emphasizing the late President's role as a democracy fighter under previous authoritarian governments.
``When everyone kept silent (for fear of possible retaliation from dictators), former President Kim courageously stood up against dictatorship. He called for democracy even when guns and sword were pointed at him in order to frustrate his determination for democracy,'' she said.
Kim had undergone oppression from the governments of Park Chung-hee and Chun Doo-hwan and faced several death threats.
A South Korean spy agent kidnapped Kim from a Tokyo hotel in an assassination attempt. He was spared after intervention from the United States and Japan. In 1980, he was arrested by the Martial Law Command led by then Major Chun on fabricated charges of treason for his alleged role in the Gwangju Pro-Democracy Movement and sentenced to death. Under international pressure, the sentence was commuted to imprisonment and then reduced to a 20-year prison term. In 1982, the sentence was suspended, after which Kim left for the United States.
During the speech, Park said Kim was the hope for people when they had undergone dictatorship. ``They had hard time even breathing during the repressive period,'' she recalled.
Park praised him for his determination to fight for democracy, saying he never gave up, despite countless imprisonments and house arrest.
``Although he was put in the most dangerous situation, Kim's determination for democracy was as solid as iron. He was a real, great democracy fighter who had never given up, although he had gone through life-threatening experiences five times, '' she said.
``People called the great leader a flower that had endured cold winter storms,'' she said.
Kim was a prepared President who saved the nation from the unprecedented financial crisis that pounded the economy in 1997 and 1998, Park said.
Kim took office amid the Asian financial crisis, and overhauled four policy areas of corporate governance, labor, the financial sector and state-funded firms.
His effective leadership led Korea to repay the fund borrowed from the International Monetary Fund earlier than expected.