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(3rd LD) S. Korea to hold state funeral for late ex-President Roh

All News 14:31 October 27, 2021

(ATTN: ADDS more info in paras 4-9; CHANGES 1st photo)
By Kim Deok-hyun and Joo Kyung-don

SEOUL, Oct. 27 (Yonhap) -- South Korea decided to hold a state funeral for late former President Roh Tae-woo, Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said Wednesday.

Kim unveiled the decision during a Cabinet meeting, saying that Roh made significant contributions to the nation's development as the 13th-term president.

"With Cabinet members, I express my deep condolences on the passing of former president Roh Tae-woo and give my sympathy to his family members," Kim said. "The government will hold a state funeral and thoroughly prepare it with respect so that people can pay tribute to his contribution."

Kim, who will head the state funeral committee, and other Cabinet members will visit the funeral altar of Roh later Wednesday.

The interior ministry said the state funeral will run for five days through Saturday, with a burial site soon to be determined after consulting with Roh's family.

"Although Roh has historic faults regarding the Dec. 12 coup and the May 18 Democratic Uprising, we considered that he made a contribution with his Northward Policy after being elected through a direct vote and made efforts to pay his fine," the ministry said in a statement.

But the ministry said Roh will not be buried in a national cemetary as he does not qualify under a law which stipulates that those convicted of a crime and who served a prison sentence are not eligible for burial in a national cemetary.

Roh's family earlier said they are looking to bury the deceased in the border town of Paju, north of Seoul.

For a state funeral, the government pays expenses for running Roh's memorial altar as well as send-off and burial ceremonies.

This photo taken on Oct. 27, 2021, shows the funeral portrait of former President Roh Tae-woo at a funeral parlor at Seoul National University Hospital in Seoul. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

This photo taken on Oct. 27, 2021, shows the funeral portrait of former President Roh Tae-woo at a funeral parlor at Seoul National University Hospital in Seoul. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

The decision comes as the presidential office of Cheong Wa Dae faced a dilemma over how much courtesy to extend to Roh, the country's last general-turned-president accused of deep involvement in a coup and the bloody crackdown on a pro-democracy uprising.

President Moon Jae-in has not issued any message yet since Roh died Tuesday at age 88, suggesting that soul-searching is under way to determine the right balance between paying respect to a late predecessor and public sentiment critical of his dark legacy.

Under a law, a state funeral will be held if a former, an incumbent or a president-elect dies. But the law does not specify whether a state funeral will be possible if they commit a grave crime, like a military coup.

Presidential chief of staff You Young-min told lawmakers Tuesday that a state funeral for Roh is "possible, but it needs a process."

Roh rose to prominence after helping former President Chun Doo-hwan seize power through the 1979 military coup in the wake of a political vacuum created by the death of former authoritarian President Park Chung-hee.

Former President Roh Tae-woo (Yonhap)

Former President Roh Tae-woo (Yonhap)

Chun's junta was accused of ruthlessly cracking on the 1980 uprising in Gwangju, leaving more than 200 dead and 1,800 others wounded, according to conservative official data.

Some lawmakers of the ruling Democratic Party (DP) voiced opposition to a state funeral for Roh, citing his role in the military coup.

"If the Republic of Korea holds a state funeral for a main culprit of mutiny, it will be self-denial of the Republic of Korea," said Oh Gi-hyoung, a DP lawmaker, in a Facebook post.

Attention is also focusing on where Roh's remains will be buried.

The family of Roh said they have been in consultations with the government about a funeral process.

On Tuesday, the family made public his last message asking for forgiveness for his "faults" -- an apparent reference to his much-criticized role in the military coup and the bloody crackdown on a pro-democracy uprising in Gwangju.

"I made my best efforts but now sincerely ask for forgiveness for my shortcomings and faults," Roh was quoted by his family as saying. "I feel very grateful and honored to have humbly accepted my destiny and served the great Republic of Korea and the people."


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