(ATTN: UPDATES with more info in paras 9-10, 14)
By Park Boram
SEOUL, Oct. 27 (Yonhap) -- Politicians, business leaders and citizens on Wednesday mourned the death of former President Roh Tae-woo, whose mixed presidential legacy drew both public praise and criticism.
The family of Roh began receiving mourners at the funeral home at Seoul National University Hospital in central Seoul on Wednesday morning, one day after the former president died at age 88.
Roh, who served as president from 1988-93, was recently admitted to a hospital after his health deteriorated but failed to recover.
As soon as the mourning altar opened, a succession of politicians and other social figures, as well as journalists and sympathetic citizens, gathered to pay respect to Roh.
Condolence flowers from President Moon Jae-in, Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum, former Presidents Chun Doo-hwan and Lee Myung-bak, Samsung Electronics Co. Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong and others lined the walls of the mourning room.
One of the first to offer condolences was Kim Chong-in, former interim leader of the main opposition People Power Party (PPP), who served as health minister and chief secretary on the economy under Roh's presidency.
"Roh has left one of the greatest legacies in terms of diplomacy as South Korean president," Kim said, in reference to Roh's signature Nordpolitik under which the country forged diplomatic relations with Cold War enemies like the Soviet Union and China.
"Thanks to the so-called Nordpolitik, the global market of our nation became greatly enlarged and the country paved a quick path to becoming an advanced nation," he noted.
A slew of former and incumbent public officials and lawmakers also visited the funeral home, including Prime Minister Kim, National Assembly Speaker Park Byeong-seug, former Prime Ministers Lee Hong-koo and Hwang Kyo-ahn, as well as Song Young-gil, chairman of the ruling Democratic Party (DP), Lee Jun-seok, PPP chairman, and Ahn Cheol-soo, chairman of the conservative minor People's Party.
Among business leaders visiting the funeral home were SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won, Roh's son-in-law who is currently in a divorce suit against the late president's daughter Roh Soh-yeong, and Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee.
"I am very heavyhearted. He has suffered for a long time, and I hope he can now rest in peace," Chey told reporters.
Later in the day, Lee Jae-myung, the presidential nominee of the DP, also paid his respects at the mourning altar.
"There is both light and shadow in his legacy, but the size of the light cannot overpower that of the shadow," Lee said, adding he still appreciates the extent to which Roh strove to make up for the past.
PPP presidential contenders, including ex-Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl and Rep. Hong Jun-pyo, visited the funeral home later.
Having been accused of deep involvement in a 1979 military coup and a brutal crackdown on a pro-democracy civil uprising in the southern city of Gwangju the next year, Roh has left behind a mixed political legacy.
After deliberations at a Cabinet meeting earlier in the day, the government announced its decision to hold a five-day state funeral for Roh. Prime Minister Kim will be in charge of the state committee for the state funeral that will last till Saturday.
But Roh will not be buried at the national cemetery reserved for national heroes, veterans and others who served the nation, it said.
A group of activists based in Busan and a regional association of lawmakers in Gwangju protested the government decision to hold a state funeral for Roh, saying his past wrongdoings disqualify him for such a national privilege.
Holding a press conference in Busan, 25 regional civic groups, including the Busan branch of the People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, claimed Roh helped extend the military dictatorship in South Korea and oppressed pro-democracy movements.
"It's incomprehensible how Roh's death can be glorified and mourned on the state level when so many victims are still alive," the group said in protest.
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