Former South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun committed suicide Saturday by leaping to his death from a hill behind his house, the South Korean government announced.
He was 62. Roh, who was president from 2003 to 2008, had gone hiking near his home with an aide around 6:30 a.m. Saturday (5:30 p.m. ET Friday), the state-run Yonhap news agency said. He was found later with head injuries, and died at 9:30 a.m. after being taken to a hospital in Busan, police said. A hospital spokesman declined to comment. Roh’s former chief of staff, currently acting as the family’s lawyer, told CNN Roh left a suicide note for his family. The contents of the note were not made public, but South Korean media said it describes Roh’s agony and emotional state. Roh’s death came amid an investigation into a bribery scandal that had tarnished his reputation. Prosecutors were investigating the former president for allegedly receiving $6 million in bribes from a South Korean businessman while in office. Roh’s wife was scheduled to be questioned by prosecutors Saturday, and Roh was planning to answer a second round of questions next week. With Roh’s death, prosecutors said, the case against him has been suspended. Roh had said he was ashamed about the scandal. In the first round of questioning, he said he was losing face and that he was disappointing his supporters. The former president said he learned about the payments only after he left office and that some of them were legitimate investments, Yonhap reported.
Roh apologizes to nation
Roh wrote about his thoughts on a blog that he maintained, which also attracted supporters and tourists to his hometown, Yonhap said. Although Roh had not made a formal guilty plea, many were disappointed that a man who came to power vowing an end to corruption would face such allegations. Roh hoped to leave a legacy of improved relations with North Korea.
Just before he left the presidency, Roh became the first South Korean leader to cross the demilitarized zone and meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. Roh believed in the “sunshine policy” of his predecessor, Kim Dae Jung, that sought to engage the north and Roh also promised aid. Roh spoke to CNN Correspondent Sohn Jie-Ae just after that trip and said he thought his legacy would be to ensure that many others crossed the demilitarized zone after him. The current South Korean president, Lee Myung-Bak, however, takes a harder line on the north and has so far not continued Roh’s efforts.