Relatives and politicians paid tribute to late South Korean President Kim Dae-jung on Monday as they marked the fifth death anniversary of the former pro-democracy champion and Nobel peace laureate.
Kim, a liberal icon, was a vocal critic of the 1961-79 authoritarian rule of former President Park Chung-hee -- the father of current President Park Geun-hye -- and almost lost his life while protesting against the regime.
While serving as president from 1998 to 2003, he held the first-ever inter-Korean summit with then North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in 2000 and won the Nobel Peace Prize later that year in recognition of his efforts to improve ties with Pyongyang.
The former president died of complications from pneumonia five years ago at the age of 85.
"Our people currently do not trust politics, but had (we) followed the path of parliamentarism taken by the (late) president, this would not have happened," National Assembly speaker Chung Ui-hwa said in a speech at a memorial service at the Seoul National Cemetery. "Please give us a teaching in a loud voice."
Kim's second son and former lawmaker Kim Hong-up expressed regret that his father's efforts to bring peace and reconciliation to the Korean Peninsula have yet to bear fruit, apparently referring to the strained inter-Korean ties under recent conservative administrations in the South.
"I want to believe in my father's words that when we are faced with a bent road, we may go around, but history will advance," he said in a speech at the service.
Among the attendees were Kim's widow, Lee Hee-ho, the chiefs of the ruling and opposition parties, former aides to the late president, and lawmakers of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD), including Kim's former chief of staff, Rep. Park Jie-won.
Park led a five-member delegation to the North Korean border city of Kaesong on Sunday to receive a wreath and a telegram sent by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to mark the late South Korean leader's death anniversary.
Following the service, the attendees laid flowers and paid their respects at Kim's grave.
In tribute, rival political parties vowed to work to fulfill the late president's will.
"We must honor the wishes of the late president, who strove to open the path to inter-Korean dialogue and cooperation through an inter-Korean summit and other means, and put all of our efforts into opening a new era of true peace on the Korean Peninsula," Kim Young-woo, the senior spokesman of the ruling Saenuri Party, said in a statement.
Speaking in a press briefing, NPAD spokesperson Han Jeoung-ae expressed embarrassment that the crises in the public's livelihoods, inter-Korean relations and democracy -- all of which the late president spoke of -- have continued to this day, saying her party will work to resolve such issues. (Yonhap)