Former South Korean president Kim Young-Sam dies at 87

A file picture taken on Sept 2, 1996 shows South Korean President Kim Young Sam addressing Korean-Americans during a reception at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles, California.
A file picture taken on Sept 2, 1996 shows South Korean President Kim Young Sam addressing Korean-Americans during a reception at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles, California. PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL (AFP) - Former South Korean President Kim Young-Sam, who became the country’s first civilian ruler for more than 30 years, died on Sunday, hospital officials said. He was 87. 

The pro-democracy activist who served as president from 1993 to 1998, was suffering from a serious blood infection and died shortly after midnight, several days after being hospitalised with a high-fever, Seoul National University Hospital President Oh Byung-Hee told reporters. 

Kim’s term was bookended by two major events, the first nuclear crisis with North Korea in 1994 and the Asian financial crisis of 1997 to 1998, when he accepted a $58 billion dollar bailout from the International Monetary Fund. 

He also had the two generals who served as presidents before him indicted and convicted on treason charges, although he pardoned both men at the end of his presidency. 

A leading figure in the pro-democracy movement, Kim was twice placed under house arrest for a total of two years in the early 1980s.  He stood in South Korea’s first free direct presidential election in 1987, but split the opposition vote with fellow activist Kim Dae-Jung, allowing the former general Roh Tae-Woo to take office.