Page last updated at 08:07 GMT, Tuesday, 18 August 2009 09:07 UK

Former S Korea President Kim dies


Kim Dae-jung gave his final interview to the BBC's John Sudworth in July

Former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, who pioneered his country's "Sunshine Policy" of engagement with North Korea, has died.

Kim, who was being treated for pneumonia, was reported to have died after suffering heart failure.

The former leader had spent his life pursuing democracy and reunification with the North.

He survived several attempts on his life and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2000.

Kim was declared dead just after 1340 local time (0440 GMT), a spokesman at the Severance hospital in Seoul said.

"His heart began failing at 1.35 pm and stopped minutes later despite our efforts to revive it," said the spokesman.

'Many ordeals'

Kim Dae-jung's date of birth is unclear. According to his presidential website he was born on 6 January 1924, but it is reported that he later changed this to 3 December 1925 to avoid conscription during the Japanese colonial period.

Former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung (29 May 2009)
I never strayed from principles and never compromised with injustice, even at the risk of my life
Kim Dae-jung

Kim was branded a dangerous radical during South Korea's decades of military rule.

He survived several assassination attempts, was sentenced to death, and tortured in jail. He was exiled twice and put under house arrest countless times.

He made history when he was elected to the presidency in December 1997 on his fourth attempt - the first peaceful transfer of power from a ruling to an opposition party since the country was founded in 1948.

He remained president until he stepped down in 2003.

In 2007 South Korea's spy agency, the National Intelligence Service (NIS), admitted abducting Kim in 1973, with tacit backing from then leader Park Chung-hee.

The report said there was some evidence to suggest the kidnap was initially planned as an assassination attempt.

In a 2006 interview, he said he had no regrets about the turbulent nature of his career.

"I underwent many ordeals in my life but I never strayed from principles and never compromised with injustice, even at the risk of my life," AFP news agency reported him as saying.

He described the biggest achievement of his presidency as the landmark summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in 2000. It paved the way for reconciliation and earned him a Nobel prize later that year.

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