SEOUL, July 30 (Korea Bizwire) — Family members of six former South Korean presidents have met at the former presidential compound of Cheong Wa Dae in the first such gathering dubbed as a symbol of “historic reconciliation.”
The meeting on Saturday came as Culture Minister Park Bo-gyoon invited the relatives of the former leaders to view a special exhibition marking the first anniversary of opening the compound to the public.
Cheong Wa Dae had long served as the presidential office and residential compound of South Korean presidents until President Yoon Suk Yeol relocated the presidential office to Seoul’s Yongsan district and opened Cheong Wa Dae to the public in May last year.
The exhibition, which kicked off June 1, highlights the lives of the former presidents by bringing together items that symbolize each of them. More than 230,000 people have attended the exhibition since its opening.
Attending Saturday’s event were a daughter-in-law of South Korea’s first president, Rhee Syng-man, and five sons of five late presidents: Yun Po-sun, Park Chung-hee, Roh Tae-woo, Kim Young-sam and Kim Dae-jung.
The meeting is meant to remember that the country’s “proud history” would have been impossible without the devotion of the former presidents, to overcome conflicts and confrontations in the country’s tumultuous modern history through the historic reconciliation of their family members and to pledge to create a new vision for the country, the culture minister said.
The family members recalled the lives of the former presidents and their own as being the children of a national leader.
“Father’s (efforts) to overcome poverty and modernize his home country were to establish a foundation for national integration,” said Park Ji-man, the son of late President Park Chung-hee and younger brother of former President Park Geun-hye.
Some credit Park Chung-hee with rebuilding South Korea from the ashes of the 1950-53 Korean War, while others accuse him of violating human rights and clamping down on democracy during his authoritarian rule.
South Korea has now become a full-fledged democracy and an economic powerhouse.
Kim Hong-up, a son of late President Kim Dae-jung, noted how his father had invited former Presidents Choi Kyu-hah, Chun Doo-hwan, Roh Tae-woo and Kim Young-sam to Cheong Wa Dae for dinner in a rare meeting that was aimed at conveying a message of unity to the public.
In 1973, Kim Dae-jung was kidnapped from a hotel in Japan by South Korea’s spy agency during the harsh rule of then President Park Chung-hee.
In 1980, Kim was sentenced to death on charges of sedition and conspiracy in the wake of a military coup by Chun and a democratization movement in the southwestern city of Gwangju, Kim’s political stronghold.
The family members of the former presidents pledged to help create and spread a presidential culture of unity and positivity, according to the culture ministry.
Chun’s family members did not attend Saturday’s gathering.