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Roh Moo-Hyun

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Roh Moo-hyun GOM (Korean: 노무현; Hanja: 盧武鉉; RRNo Muhyeon; Korean pronunciation: [no muçʌn]; 1 September 1946 – 23 May 2009) was a South Korean politician and lawyer who served as the ninth president of South Korea between 2003 and 2008.

Roh’s pre-presidential political career was focused on human rights advocacy for student activists in South Korea. His electoral career later expanded to a focus on overcoming regionalism in South Korean politics, culminating in his election to the presidency. He achieved a large following among younger internet users, which aided his success in the presidential election.[2][3]

Roh’s election was notable for the arrival in power of a new generation of Korean politicians, the so-called 386 Generation (people in their thirties, when the term was coined, who had attended university in the 1980s and who were born in the 1960s).[4][5] This generation had been veterans of student protests against authoritarian rule and advocated a conciliatory approach towards North Korea, even at the expense of good relations with the United States.[6] Roh himself was the first South Korean president to be born after the end of Japanese rule in Korea.

South Korea received the highest marks on the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index under his administration. The value of the South Korean won against the US dollar was the strongest during his administration since 1997.[7] Due to the strong currency, for the first time in history, South Korea became the world’s 10th largest economy and exceeded the $20,000 milestone in nominal GDP per capita during his administration.

Despite high expectations at the beginning of his presidency,[8] Roh encountered strong opposition from both the opposition conservative Grand National Party and media, and he was frequently accused of incompetence.[9] As a result, many of Roh’s policies, such as a plan to move the capital of South Korea and a plan to form a coalition with the opposition, made little progress. Because of his poor performance in economy and diplomacy, Roh was not a popular president, having the worst approval rating on average ever recorded in South Korean political history.[10][11][12] His economic policy was often criticized for persisting with certain obsolete economic views and failing certain livelihood issues.[11][13]

After leaving office, Roh returned to his hometown of Bongha Maeul. He ran a duck farm and lived an ordinary life, sharing it through his blog. He also ran a website called “Democracy 2.0” to promote healthy online discussions.[14] Fourteen months later, Roh was suspected of bribery by prosecutors, and the subsequent investigations attracted public attention.[15] Roh died by suicide on 23 May 2009 when he jumped from a mountain cliff behind his home, after saying that “there are too many people suffering because of me” on a suicide note on his computer.[16] About 4 million people visited Roh’s hometown Bongha Village in the week following his death. His suicide was confirmed by police.[17] Public opinion on Roh has improved considerably since his death, which take into account his humans rights background and national economic progress during his presidency. In a 2019 Gallup Korea poll, Roh was cited as the most popular president in South Korean history amongst the general public