Sunday, November 22, 2015


Kim Young-sam, former president of South Korea, died yesterday of heart failure caused by blood infection at the age of 87.

Despite Kim's pitifully weak throwing arm (he once did a horrible job of throwing out the opening pitch at a baseball game: the ball plunked to the earth far short of the batter), he was admirable for his attempts at rooting out governmental corruption—an effort that didn't earn him friends and that may well have led, directly or indirectly, to the financial crisis of 1997. Many South Koreans today despise President Kim, which I think puts me in the minority of those who appreciate how he ripped open locked doors to shine a harsh light on some of the darkest corners of government. When Kim demanded the exposure of formerly secret bank accounts, this produced a real effect: dozens of prominent heads rolled. I will always, always respect Kim for his role in making that happen. And given how much we Western expats grumble cynically about Korea's culture of corruption, I think most expats should stand shoulder-to-shoulder with me in saluting Kim for his presidency.

So I was genuinely saddened to hear that the old man had passed on. I extend my condolences to his family and dedicate this humble blog post to his memory. Kim is probably the last of the modern Korean presidents to earn my genuine respect.


1 comment:

Charles said...

I'm with you on this one. In fact, I'll go as far as to say that, for as storybook a life as Kim Daejung might have lived (political prisoner condemned to death becomes president, wins Nobel peace prize, etc.), I think KYS did more for the cause of democracy in Korea than his successor. Even if he wasn't perfect.

(I may also have a soft spot in my heart for the guy because he was president when I arrived in Korea. Rest in peace!)