Korea Expat BLog

Death of a President South Korean Roh, Moo Hyun at Bong Hwa Mountain

post-war South Korea WAS a struggling nation of 6 day business week where office closed at 1 pm on Saturdays . people worked hard amidst harsh military dictatorship always reminded of war-torn days . but as the economy developed with international recognition from 1988 Olympics and rising to an I.T. (information technology) power onto the Millennium : leisure activity grew and banks started to close from May 2002 and government offices to take turns off on Saturdays from July 2004 onwards .

even after IMF bailout on 1998 and again through plummeting exchange rate in 2008 Koreans were not able to return to the hard-working days where Saturdays are an earned transition to tranquility in a much concentrated city life . now fast-forward to Saturday morning May 23rd 2009 (no, we are NOT recreating another obnoxiously time-shifting episode of ‘LOST’ Season 5) :

just before 10 am news broke of former President Roh, Moo Hyun commiting suicide . open market merchants, taxi drivers, doctors and businessmen (called “salary men” in the Orient) were all surprised, but understandably so, because he was on the brink of being arrested on bribery charges after the humiliation of witnessing his major campaign supporters and direct family members called in and investigated . but news swifted by 11 am into him having fallen off a cliff while mountain climbing . by noon : the end of a President who had promoted himself as the most righteous of a long~ line of corrupt leaders of modern Korea and then in the end found just as wronged as his predecessors, began to take shape .


20090523 BongHwa Mountain rocks where former President Roh, Moo Hyun jumped to his death 

5:45 am – former President Roh, Moo Hyun exited his residence in his hometown of Bong Ha Village located rear South of the Korean Penninsula to hike up Bong Hwa Mountain just behind . he had left a death note to his former Presidential Secretary .

6:40 am – he and his body guard (Korean counterpart of the Secret Service in the States) were atop “Owl Rock” – a huge rock formation that form a side of Bong Hwa Mountain (where a month ago when the ongoing bribery scandal pointed to Roh, press photographers set up their cameras to overlook his residence downhill).

Roh asked him “do you have a cigarette ?”
bodyguard : “no, shall I go get one ?”
former President answered “no, there is no need for that .”
now to distract the bodyguard Roh said while looking down “oh there are some people hiking”,
then in the few seconds the bodyguard looked away Roh threw himself down .. Owl Rock

local users have said later that the hiking trail along Owl Rock on Bong Hwa Mountain is used by more or less 50 people a day with even stairs leading to the peak, that it is NOT quite possible to fall by accident unless slipping or jumping down intentionally .


8:13 am – his broken body barely sustaining life arrived at nearby SaeYeong Hospital in KimHae City . he was unconscious with severe injuries on the head . he was then swiftly transfered to Busan University Hospital in YangSan (the larger authority in Southern Korea).

8:30 am – hopes of his survival is abandoned by the hospital staff,

9:25 am – Roh, Moo Hyun is announced dead . former First Lady Kwon, Yang Sook on arrival at the hospital and confirming his death .. fainted



you can see a video of the view from Bong Hwa Mountain atop Owl Rock
looking down onto Roh’s residence which is now crowded lined with awaiting cars .
(video will automatically start right after a short ad)
followed by another video of mourning at his residence and of volunteers on-site
then of a video where police – disguised as mourners to protect high ranking visitors – are casted away by locals .

[ Death Note and Suicide Will ]
the following is my (direct) translation of the will found in Roh, Moo Hyun’s computer as a *.hwp file which was a popular Korean Word Processor in early 90’s before the influx of Microsoft Word, but still used today in government offices . file name is entitled ‘too many people  are in agony because of me’ saved this morning 5:21 am May 23rd 2009 :

I have owed to too many people.
the agony received by many people because of me is too much.
and I also cannot bear the agonies to come.
and the rest of my life would be only a burdon to others.
I cannot do anything due to health.
I cannot even read books nor write (because of failing sight).

do not be too sad.
Life and Death .. aren’t they both a piece of Nature?
do not be sorry.
do not despise anyone.
it is fate.

do cremate.
and leave only a very small tombstone near the house.
it is a thought (of mine) from a long time.


no it is NOT my translation but the grammar that is out of place . in Korea alike many part of old cultures there are half-a-dozen levels of speaking in addressing others depending on class AND age, and here the tone begins self-reflecting and latter commanding as an Oriental father would to his inheriting grandson or from an ailing Jedi Master of Star Wars movie fame to his apprentice .. understandable for this is intended for closest kin . thus “properly” edited translations in worldwide newswire such as “please cremate me” is not a correct expression .



[ evening supplementary ]
residents of Bong Ha Village, where the former President moved to after office, had formed a bond with him for he regularly drank cheap alcohol (called MakKolLee – try it : it is white AND NOT that strong) with them . they have been hassling outside demonstrators who came at the onset of the Park, Yeon Cha national bribery scandal pointing to him . and today soon after he was pronounced dead they chased out reporters who came into the village, implying “what good did you people do in bringing this misfortune ?!”

as afternoon set on the Capital of Seoul : mourners gathered in front of the old City Hall, where major demonstrations have been held in Korean modern history . and as they set up a remote funeral service just across at the main gate of DeokSu Palace, police anti-demonstration units came to disassemble it and forbid setting up any more . photos abound of mourners sitting down on spot some crying, instead of any demonstrative clashing .


[ late night supplementary ]
mid afternoon after Roh’s body had been moved from the hospital to his hometown of Bong Ha Village, current President Lee, Myung Bak sent a customary stand of flowers in condolence . however the town’s residents blocked its entry to and then broke it into pieces (for they are opposing political parties : think of the former as the people’s regime while the latter business-sided regime). flowers from former President and toppled Dictator Jeon, Doo Hwan met the same fate (young Roh was THE man who stood up against Jeon’s rule while Seoul was covered with anti-demonstration tear gas in the 80’s). furthermore busload containing opposing party members including Lee, Hwae Chang arriving to attend mourning was blocked by furious grievers some hurdling eggs and had to turn around .

20090524 mourning citizens gather in front of great gates at SEOUL DeokSuGung Palace 23rd evening

throughout the afternoon police buses containing more than 10,000 anti-demonstration force blocked sensitive areas in the Capital known for mass rallies including City Hall Plaza as well as Jong Ro Temple and Cheon Gae Cheon Plaza . but as current laws forbidding mass rallies exclude mourning of passing and the authorities sensing current consensus sympathetic to the former President’s death, they are NOT forbidding additional funeral tables set up aside from the one they disassembled earlier at DeokSu Palace gates shown above, but watching closely as to what fury /might/ happen . as midnight nears, roughly 3000 mourners have gathered here encircled by buse-loads of reportedly 2000 anti-demonstration police .

you don’t necessarily need to take a poll to find out what Koreans are thinking now . at meeting corners on major streets, sitting in local eateries, riding the bus and subway and the cab drivers .. the most humble of Korean Presidents to-date is cornered politically and jumps off a cliff, while a mismantled Military Dictator who took many timesfold more bribes than supposedly Roh did, is living rich proud with his chin up . no I am NOT saying this IS the case but how the populace feels today .. enough for the current administration edgy, to lose sleep tonight .



[ next day Sunday May 24th noon ]
as small and larger clashes, though not critical, is going on at mourning sites both in Bong Ha Village AND Seoul : DeokSu Palace gates, official ‘timeline of events’ leading to and after ex-President Roh, Moo Hyun’s suicide death is announced by noon from KyungNam (province) Police HeadQuarters . my initial timeline above is narrated radio news as events were unfolding . so I would not edit it but list the new one below .

Saturday May 23rd 2009 at his hometown residence in BongHa Village near South-Eastern end of the Korean Penninsula :

  • 5:21 am – Roh opens his computer file containing his last will and saves it first 5:26 am then lastly at 5:44 am.
  • 5:45 am – he calls his security personel Mr.Lee on the interphone and asks “shall we go for a walk ?”
  • 5:50 am – two people meet in front of his house and heads for Bong Hwa Mountain just rear of the house – witnessed by two police personel stationed outside the house .
  • 6:20 am – police personel Mr.Lee age 21 stationed in vicinity reports seeing Roh and his security standing atop Owl Rock – once on top : Roh and his security rest aproximately 20 minutes while Roh asks “do owls live on Owl Rock ?”, “do you have a cigarette ?” to which the security personel answered “no I haven’t”. then looking at people passing along the hiking trail Roh asks “who is that ?” and here when the security personel redirected his sight to block anyone approaching ..
  • 6:45 am – his security personel witness Roh falling from 45 meters-high {less than a 20 story building – my quote} rock mass of Bong Hwa Mountain located 500 meters from the house .
  • 7:00 am – Roh unconscious and bleeding on the head and hands arrives at SaeYeong Hospital {my translation} in Kim Hae City {Eastern Satellite City of Busan or Pusan}, applied CPR .
  • 7:35 am – Roh in critical state on artificial life support transfered out to larger hospital with authority,
  • 8:13 am – arrives at Busan University Hospital {my translation} in YangSan {Northern Satellite Town bordering Busan or Pusan}, applied CPR .
  • 9:30 am – Roh is taken out of artificial life support and pronounced dead .
  • 4:05 ~ 4:35 pm – KyungNam Police HQ Cyber Unit Chief and digital annalyse team investigating on site recovers the file containing Roh’s dying will on his computer . the file is named “too many people are suffering because of me” consisting of 14 lines of will .
  • 5:20 pm – police in confering with prosecutors, handed over Roh’s body to his kin .


[ next day Sunday May 24th evening ]
amid traffic into Bong Ha Village virtually blocked with rows of cars and visitors awaiting to enter to pay respects, mourners stood in rain at times under greyed weather . and like yesterday, leaders from opposing political parties were again blocked at the entrance only to turn back . most notable was Ms.Park, Keun Hae, eldest daughter of the early President and harsh dictator Park, Jung Hee, and now representative of HanNaRa party : she left Seoul by plane at 2:30 pm to land at KimHae Airport serving the Port City of Busan (Pusan) and arrived at the entrance of Bong Ha Village around 4 pm. hearing news of this portion of mourners inside repulsed and after receiving reports that the crowd would be hard to handle, her car eventually turned back around 4:50 pm to return to Seoul . however her sister and current chairperson of YookYeong Foundation (Children’s trust set up by her mother and assassinated First Lady Ms.Yook, Yeong Soo) Ms.Park, Keun Ryung was able to pay her respects early this morning .

also in the afternoon National Assembly Chairman Mr.Kim, Hyeong Oh was met with water spray at the entrance to the village and had to turn back under umbrellas .

once at the Capital today it is estimated 150,000 mourners have paid respect at the temporary service set up at DeokSoo Palace gates across City Hall . it took mourners to wait in line for 3 hours to take their turn .



[ day 2 Monday May 25th morning ]
all National Assembly sessions have put on a halt because the whole country is in a state of national mourning . but more so : National Assembly has been an arena for arguments and pushing fights short of punching not uncommon (hey you should see even monks getting each other like gang members on their meetings at official associations especially when the next leader’s election is at stake) and when talks insue in seeking responsibility for the former President’s suicide it is the current administration who will be cornered in overdoing on the prosecution of recent bribery investigation .


20090525 chief prosecutor Kim, Chae Jin after paying respects at Roh, Moo Hyun funeral

[ day 2 Monday May 25th afternoon ]
this morning Prosecutor General Lim, Chae Jin, whose responsibility of “overdoing investigation” now weighs heavily on his shoulders by the former President’s suicide, exits a funeral site set up at Seoul History Museum in ShinMunRo in downtown JongRo, Seoul after paying respects . his suit is hurdled as press media crowd in for questions but left without saying a word .


interviews with personel who was directly involved with Roh, Moo Hyun’s suicide is coming to light by DongAh and JoongAng Daily NewsPapers :

Mr.Lee age 41 who was the security officer with him atop Owl Rock when the former President jumped to his death :
Mr.Lee has been in Bong Ha Village almost a year and says they were simply resting atop Owl Rock with light conversion . he says he was 1 ~ 2m away from Roh as he always follows at this distance . and it happened in a matter of seconds there was no time to act . Mr.Lee added he doesn’t know how to continue on with his life after this mishap .

Mr.Sohn, Chang Bae chief of internal medicine at SaeYeong Hospital where the fallen Roh, Moo Hyun was first taken to :
“former President Roh arrived on a security vehicle instead of an ambulance, unconscious and critical injuries to his head . we tried CPR but saw no improvements that we put him in an ambulance with emergency team and rerouted to a higher medical facility in Busan University Hospital .”


[ day 2 Monday May 25th evening ]
above photo’d Prosecutor General Lim, Chae Jin is now known to have submitted an official resignation to Justice Minister Kim, Kyung Han on news of the former President’s suicide, swiftly on the morning of Roh’s death May 23rd . he had sited human agony as the reason but the Legislative Department rejected it as of this afternoon May 25 because “solving the above “Park, Yeon Cha Gate’ is the priority” . Lim probably would have tried this out of sheer pressure because the whole prosecution was sure to receive the boomerang .
*note there is a term in Korean called “changing of waters” when a head of a department quits or arrives and the rest of the immediate team members are changed out of or into his close subordinate allies – very often practiced in government subsiadiaries as well as business sector .

also noteable is the fact that Lim was appointed to his current position by none other than the former President Roh, Moo Hyun ..

20090524 in front of great gates at SEOUL DeokSuGung Palace 20090524 mourners have to pass narrow openings through police blockade 

tension is mounting in the center of all things Korean, in front of City Hall Plaza in the Capital of Seoul . across City Hall is the main gate to DeokSu Palace and police anti-demonstration unit buses have literally lined off the roadside where mourners have to “slide” through the barricade buses to enter funeral sessions . many locals can foretell this will eventually lead to another ‘candle rally’ – a peaceful but horrorsome consequence for the current adminstration comparable to massive anti-government protests whose forbidding tear gas covered most larger cities in dictator-ruled 80’s .



[ day 4 Monday May 27th morning ]
in a surprising turn of events : former President Roh, Moo Hyun may have jumped into suicide while he was alone, without any security nearby . there were 2 minor news that seemed out of place .

  1. before heading onto Owl Rock, Roh had visited his late parents’ temple merely 200 m. away on the same Bong Hwa Mountain  as seen by head of a nearby temple,
  2. a hiker-by on Bong Hwa Mountain said he saw a (President’s) security personel alone nearby (as if lost),


after inquiring the responsible security officer Mr.Lee 3 times in the duration of May 23rd ~ 26th yesterday, his testimony seem to come and go .

  • on the 1st inquiry on 23rd : he said he was “with Roh for 20 minutes atop Owl Rock” where Roh asked if Mr.Lee had a cigarette and then that he could see people below .. revealed to the press as such .
  • however on the 2nd inquiry on 25th : Mr.Lee said “Roh suggested they go to JungToWon” (is a Buddhist Temple located 200m from Owl Rock) where Roh’s late parents’ tablet is placed . once arriving there Roh asked Mr.Lee to go (only) check if Temple Master Seon, Jin Kyu is inside . after which Seon recognized Mr.Lee and asked if anything is the matter where he answered no and went back . Roh then told Mr.Lee “you do not need to report that I was here”. but then another report “when Mr.Lee returned, Roh was gone” .
  • on his 3rd inquiry on 26th afternoon yesterday : Mr.Lee said he went to herald away a hiker approaching and when returning Roh was not there . this was revealed after issuing the fact that Mr.Lee talked on the radio to the guard at Roh’s residence that he “lost” Roh . after which he testified he looked for the former President here and there only to find him below the rocks .


yeah right, that’s all we needed when a former President commits suicide and whole nation is almost in a mourning rally and to the North another (neuclear) missile test .



[ day 5 Thursday May 28th evening ]
OK former President Roh, Moo Hyun avertedly sent his Security Officer Mr.Lee towards the temple after which he jumped down to his death . soonafter Mr.Lee on returning having found Roh gone exchanged inquiring radio messages with his security counterpart down at Roh’s residence . all the while roaming around to find Roh, after which on a hinch Roh might have jumped down, searched below to find the body . an old couple farming nearby as every morning : heard a loud crash-and-falling noise 2 times, then yondering over to find a man helping up an injured man – and did not suspect at the time it was the former President and his bodyguard .

then there is another ambuguity this Security Officer Mr.Lee hinted or even confessed the above at the onstart, only to be neglected or covered by the investigating police .


for the few days now different departments of the Seoul and National Administration have been evading the decision at the other, whether to allow the former President’s parting ceremonies to be held at City Hall Plaza as requested by Roh, Moo Hyun’s trustees . this wide plaza where 5 major roads meet has been THE place for national festivities as well as rallies and demonstrations that topple former administrations and sensifively effect their decisions . under normal circumstances police would have no say in allowing the current funeral services held at DeokSoo Palace gates, across this plaza from City Hall . but since Roh commited suicide while under investigation, the authorities have been seeing the mourning down-right as an act of upheaval thus blocking off the whole wide plaza AND the roads leading to it with countless rows of anti-demonstration unit buses .

– but due to mounting criticism this barricade will be open tomorrow morning at 9 am.
– for Roh, Moo Hyun’s traditional parting ceremony will be held at nearby North KyungBok Palace gates from 11 am for almost an hour,
– followed by farewell festivities at City Hall Plaza from 1 pm for 30 minutes ,
– ending with several chorus songs .
– after which the farewell march will proceed to Seoul Train Station to the South-East . (I presume this will be a slow 1-hour walk)
all the while traffic will be stopped from KwangHwaMoon (to the North) to Seoul City Hall Plaza (Central) from noon until 2 pm tomorrow,
then South-West towards Seoul Train Station following the parting trail .






[ allegation and insuing charges ]
the point at which the former President Roh, Moo Hyun committed suicide was a time he must have barely had space to breathe, for prosecuters were considering whether to charge him or not . it is not uncommon for a new administration to seek into wrongdoings of former leaders . but a ‘big’ fish got caught last year . it all started with the indictment against the chairman of a shoe manufacturer in Southern Korea gradually called Park, Yeon Cha Gate . he confessed in fear of prosecutors going after her daughter . the so called Park, Yeon Cha LIST is not a written list of collaborators but a list the prosecutors added up from his testimonies . then came his schedule book of which his secretary kept notes of everything he was doing . he slid bribes to high ranking officials in the administration . and the scandal poured over even into officials in the current administration .

Roh’s niece’s husband Yeon, Chul Ho and Roh’s son Geon Ho had received and used USD $5,000,000.- and the former First Lady received $1,000,000.- then it became known Roh couple received a set of lucrative Piaget watches from Chairman Park as a customary aging present in Korea (traditionally at age 60, 70 and 80). costing almost USD $100,000.- each, both testified they threw them away into an open field when the investigation started .


20090411노무현전대통령 태광실업박연차회장께 직접전화로 100만달러 요구했다고 검찰밝혀

the former President himself was called into investigation, where his car parade from his hometown of Bong Ha Village cross-country North to the Capital was big news . from the onset Roh only lowered his head and repeated his apologies, short of admitting directly receiving any bribery . he even stated he was NOT aware of his wife receiving bribery, but again and again he was “very sorry”.

as Roh denied any direct involvement on the briberies the prosecution went after Roh’s daughter Jung Yeon . she was found to have received money wired from Chairman Park to buy a new development condo on the Jersey side overlooking Manhattan skyline in New York . for USD $1,600,000.- she bought the one at the South-Eastern corner and on the top floor which offers the best view, also the largest and the most expensive . the Hudson Club consists of 2 building blocks with 200 apartment units, built in 2002 for rent and a condo since 2006 . it was considered prime investment and almost half of the takers were said to be Korean by local realtors and currently almost 25% of residents being Korean . it is near Fort Lee considered THE Korea Town in the East Coast .



[ reference ]
breaking news on this page are mostly my words deducted from common content chosen from at least 3 major Korean media . local attitudes at certain points are general in nature from Koreans working and living in various path in massive metro-Seoul boundaries (which include Satellite Cities around the Capital) and 5 major cities in South Korea . as any language, some pronounciations in Korean is not fully expressable in English alphabets and although a person may have their own spelling officialized on PassPorts – where ALL name is in English – the spelling here is my own for sake of pronounciation . intact is the order of Korean people’s names where Last (Family) Name is located first in the Orient, opposed to First (Given) Names coming up front in the West .


a great amount of money comes your way once at the Presidency
061018 Presidents Roh, Moo Hyun and George Bush shake hands at White House September 15 2006

– Korea Tech BLog, May 2009 –


( August 28th 2012 Update ) Yes the prosecution halted all with Roh’s suicide but he should have known politics is not as humaine . with an appeal from citizens’ group begun in February 2012, the prosecution is regaining after the ex-president’s daughter (37) on charges of smuggling down-payment of $1,000,000 to purchase unit 400 (she also bought 435) of the New Jersey condo mentioned on the previous paragraph from the local Korean resident Yeon-Hee Kyung. ofcourse this comes as the 18th Presidential Election nears on December 19th . but this may end with indicting her, short of continuing investigation into Roh’s bribery charges .



( Update after Christmas 2012 ) times have changed . or rather, made a full-circle to point blank when a ruthless general over-threw a puppet president, only to be assassinated by one of his staff to open way for a series of this alumni military dictators, much more hungry for money than himself . only with continuous demonstrations on the streets did one give up the throne (with enormous dough stashed away though) to a /more/ democratic Presidency . businessmen’s President and the working people’s President took turns there-after, and each dissappointing the voters as Korea’s cultural trade-mark AND nemesis : the family, did all sort of naughty things again, to make more money . so much so, that the people started looking back to the harsh dictatorial days, wondering if THAT was As Good As it Gets ..

thus his daughter is now elected the President of the Republic of What-ever happened to South Korea . The moment of Truth, for every living thing on the Peninsula to reflect what is happening, even the alley cats who are neglected in stark contrast to cat-worshipping Japan just across the straits .
The StrongMan's Daughter

all-the-while, former and late President Roh’s daughter is now sentenced to 6 Months in prison, for illegally smuggling W1,300,000,000 into the States to pay for her New Jersey Condo introduced earlier above . while she shed tears, apologizing “for irritating the society and that she is in agony”. her lawyer husband spoke out : she is a house-wife who did not know transmitting money abroad was against the law .

and in a Merry-Go’Round Korea, it may be just to introduce a few contradicting opinions posted on websites where this news was uploaded :

  • a lawyer’s wife did NOT know international transmitting laws ..
  • you guys cornered and killed her father, so let it go now ..
  • and more alledgement that her father, as well as even the newly-elected President took money from the Last of the Korean Dictators, who resigned BUT his son returning from American studies with seemingly-unlimited funds ..


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