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S.Korea's Roh comes back, unlike unhappy predecessors
Updated: 2004-05-14 10:32

South Korea's presidents have often met unhappy endings, their terms in office culminating in coups, exile, assassination or prison.

Roh Moo-hyun added a new chapter to that troubled history when the opposition-controlled National Assembly voted to impeach him on March 12.

His fate was then put in the hands of the Constitutional Court; it had six months to decide whether to uphold or overturn the vote.

But the court's nine judges ruled on Friday to overturn the vote, meaning Roh was automatically reinstated and can finish his single five-year term that runs until February 2008.

Following is a summary of the fates of leaders since the Republic of Korea was founded in 1948. Two short-term leaders + Yun Bo-seon (1960-1961) and Choi Kyu-hah (1979-1980) + are not included.

Rhee Syng-man (1948-1960)

An independence movement leader in the 1910-1945 Japanese colonial period, Rhee set up the Republic of Korea with the help of the United States. In his final year in office, Rhee's manipulation of the presidential election vote provoked a nationwide student protest, forcing him to step down and seek refuge in Hawaii. He died in exile in 1965.

Park Chung-hee (1961-1979)

A former elementary school teacher and general, Park took office in a military coup. He was gunned down in 1979 while having dinner with his intelligence agency chief, five years after his wife was shot dead by a supporter of North Korea.

Chun Doo Hwan (1980-1988)

General Chun took office under martial law when he forced interim president Choi Kyu-hah, who took over after Park's assassination, to step down.

Yielding to a student-led democracy campaign in 1987, he allowed a national election to directly elect a president. His successor and military colleague, Roh Tae-woo, allowed the National Assembly to conduct a humiliating investigation into Chun's presidency when Seoul was hosting the 1988 Olympics.

After his resignation, Chun spent two spartan years in internal exile at a remote Buddhist monastery in the mountains.

Roh Tae-woo (1988-1993)

After taking office in 1993, Roh's successor Kim Young-sam led an anti-corruption campaign that put Roh and Chun on trial for bribery. The two former presidents were later separately charged with mutiny and treason for their roles in the 1979 coup and 1980 massacre of civilians in Kwangju.

Both were convicted in August 1996 of treason, mutiny and corruption; Chun was sentenced to death, later commuted to life in jail, while Roh's 22-1/2-year jail sentence was reduced to 17 years on appeal. Both were released from prison in early 1998.

Kim Young-sam (1993-1998)

He allowed family-owned conglomerates (chaebol) to expand recklessly by piling up mountains of debt, sowing the seeds of the 1997 financial crisis.

In his final weeks in office, the country, teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, was forced to seek a $58-billion bailout led by the International Monetary Fund. His son was arrested and jailed for corruption but freed under Kim Dae-jung.

Kim Dae-jung (1998-2003)

Dissident-turned-statesman Kim Dae-jung was sentenced to death under Chun before being allowed to go into exile in the United States.

Elected president in late 1997, he won the Nobel Peace Prize for his policy of reconciliation with communist North Korea, but business scandals tarnished his last year in office. Two of his sons were convicted of bribery and tax evasion.

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