Former SKorean President dies

  • 22/11/2015
Former South Korean President Kim Young-Sam (AAP)
Former South Korean President Kim Young-Sam (AAP)

Former South Korean President Kim Young-Sam, whose election pulled down the final curtain on more than 30 years of military rule, has aged 87.

The pro-democracy activist who served as president from 1993-1998, was suffering from a serious blood infection and died shortly after midnight on Sunday, several days after being hospitalised with a high-fever, Seoul National University Hospital President Oh Byung-Hee told reporters.

Kim's term was bookended by two major events, the first nuclear crisis with North Korea in 1994 and the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98, when he accepted a $US58 billion ($A80.10 billion) bailout from the International Monetary Fund.

He also had the two generals who served as presidents before him indicted and convicted on treason charges, although he pardoned both men at the end of his presidency.

A leading figure in the pro-democracy movement, Kim was twice placed under house arrest for a total of two years in the early 1980s.

He stood in South Korea's first free direct presidential election in 1987, but split the opposition vote with fellow activist Kim Dae-Jung, allowing the former general Roh Tae-Woo to take office.

He defeated Kim Dae-Jung in the 1992 election and was inaugurated the following year - becoming only the third civilian to hold the office and first since 1962.

In office, Kim launched a popular anti-corruption campaign and had his two predecessors, Chun Doo-Hwan and Roh, arrested on bribery charges that later morphed into trial for mutiny and treason.

Both men received lengthy prison sentences but served only two years before being released under a presidential pardon.

Kim's anti-graft drive was later tarnished after his son was arrested on charges of bribery and tax evasion.

The start of Kim's presidency was marked by the first crisis over North Korea's nuclear program, triggered by Pyongyang's announcement in 1993 that it would withdraw from the non-proliferation treaty (NPT).

The crisis ended with a deal brokered by former US president Jimmy Carter in June 1994, which led to the "Agreed Framework" under which the North agreed to freeze and eliminate its nuclear facilities in exchange for two US light-water reactors.

That deal was to collapse in 2002.

The end of Kim's presidency was clouded by the Asian financial crisis - still known in South Korea as the IMF crisis, because of the massive bail-out negotiated with the world lender.

The terms of the deal were widely seen by South Koreans as a national humiliation and an infringement of the country's economic sovereignty.

In his farewell address to the nation as president, Kim apologised for a five-year term that had failed to fulfil its initial promise.

"I cannot but frankly admit that my efforts fell short of your expectations," he said.

"My heart aches because of the heavy responsibility that weighs on my mind whenever I think of your suffering because of the current foreign exchange and financial crisis," he added.