Kim Young-sam

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For the football player, see Kim Young-sam (footballer).
Not to be confused with Kim Yong-nam.
This is a Korean name; the family name is Kim.
Kim Young-sam
Kim Young Sam 1996.png
Kim visiting Jeju Island in 1996.
7th President of South Korea
In office
25 February 1993 – 25 February 1998
Prime Minister Hwang In Sung
Lee Hoi-chang
Lee Yung-dug
Lee Hong-koo
Lee Soo-sung
Goh Kun
Preceded by Roh Tae-woo
Succeeded by Kim Dae-jung
Personal details
Born (1927-12-20)20 December 1927
Geoje Island, South Gyeongsang Province, Japanese Korea
Died 22 November 2015(2015-11-22) (aged 87)
Seoul, South Korea
Resting place Seoul National Cemetery, Seoul
Nationality South Korean
Political party Liberal (1954–1958)
Democratic (1958–1961)
New Democratic (1967–1980)
Democratic Korea (1981–1985)
New Korean Democratic (1985–1987)
Democratic Reunification (1987–1990)
Democratic Liberal (1990–1997)
Independent (1997–2015)
Spouse(s) Son Myung-soon
Children 5(including Kim Hyun-chul.)
Alma mater Seoul National University (B.A.)
Religion Presbyterianism
Military service
Service/branch Republic of Korea Army
Rank Student soldier
Korean name
Hangul 김영삼
Revised Romanization Gim Yeongsam
McCune–Reischauer Kim Yŏngsam
Pen name
Hangul 거산
Revised Romanization Geosan
McCune–Reischauer Kŏsan

Kim Young-sam (Hangul김영삼; hanja金泳三; Korean pronunciation: [kim jʌŋsʰam]; 20 December 1927 – 22 November 2015) was a South Korean politician and democratic activist, who served as the seventh President of South Korea from 1993 to 1998. From 1961, he spent almost 30 years as one of the leaders of the South Korean opposition, and one of the most powerful rivals to the authoritarian regimes of Park Chung-hee and Chun Doo-hwan.

Elected president in 1992, Kim became the first civilian to hold the office in over 30 years. He was inaugurated on 25 February 1993, and served a single five-year term, presiding over a massive anti-corruption campaign, the arrest of his two predecessors, and an internationalization policy called Segyehwa.

Early life and education[edit]

Kim was born in Geoje on 20 December 1927, during a time when Korea was under Imperial Japanese rule. He was the eldest of one son and five daughters in his family.[1] During the Korean War, Kim served in the South Korean military. In 1952, he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from Seoul National University.[2]


In 1954, Kim was elected to the National Assembly of South Korea and served nine terms representing districts in Geoje and Pusan. Kim was the youngest man ever to serve in the South Korean National Assembly.[3] Kim resigned his National Assembly seat when Syngman Rhee attempted to amend the constitution of South Korea and became a leading critic, along with Kim Dae-jung, of the military governments of Park Chung-hee and Chun Doo-hwan.

New Democratic Party leader[edit]

In 1974, he was elected as the president of the New Democratic Party. While he temporarily lost his power within the party in 1976, Kim made a political comeback during the final year of Park Chung-hee's rule. Kim took a hardline policy of never compromising or cooperating with Park's Democratic Republican Party until the Yushin Constitution was repealed and boldly criticized Park's dictatorship, which could be punished with imprisonment under the new constitution.[4]

In August 1979, Kim allowed around 200 female workers at the Y.H. Trading Company to use the headquarters of New Democratic Party as a place for their sit-in demonstration and pledged to protect them. One thousand policemen raided the party headquarters and arrested the workers.[5] One female worker died in the process and many lawmakers trying to protect them were severely beaten, some requiring hospitalization. The YH Incident garnered widespread criticism and led to Kim's condemnation, with an assertion that Park's dictatorship would soon collapse.[6] After this incident, Park was determined to remove Kim from the political scene, like the imprisoned Kim Dae-jung, and instructed the South Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA) to engineer such a move. In September 1979, a court order suspended Kim's presidency of the New Democratic Party.[7][8]

When Kim called on the United States to stop supporting Park's dictatorship in an interview with the New York Times,[7][9] Park wanted to have Kim imprisoned while the Carter Administration, concerned over increasing human right violations, issued a strong warning not to persecute members of the opposition party. When Kim was expelled from the National Assembly in October 1979, the United States recalled its ambassador back to Washington, D.C.,[6] and all 66 lawmakers of the New Democratic Party resigned from the National Assembly.[9]

When it became known that the South Korean government was planning to accept the resignations selectively, uprisings broke out in Kim's hometown of Pusan. It was the biggest demonstration since the Syngman Rhee presidency, and spread to nearby Masan and other cities, with students and citizens calling for an end to the dictatorship.[6] The crisis was one of the causes for the assassination of Park Chung-hee in 26 October 1979 by KCIA Director Kim Jae-gyu.[7]

House arrest[edit]

The government's oppressive stance towards the opposition continued under Chun Doo-hwan, who seized power with a military coup on 12 December 1979. Kim Young-Sam was expelled from the National Assembly for his democratic activities and banned from politics from 1980 to 1985. In 1983, he undertook a 21-day hunger strike protesting the dictatorship of Chun Doo-hwan.[10]

Failed presidential run, 1987[edit]

When the first democratic presidential election was held in 1987 after Chun's retirement, Kim Young-sam and Kim Dae-jung ran against each other, splitting the opposition vote and enabling ex-general Roh Tae-woo, Chun's hand-picked successor, to win the election. In 1990, he unexpectedly merged his Democratic Reunification Party with Roh's ruling Democratic Justice Party to form the Democratic Liberal Party, now the Grand National Party.[4]

Presidency (1993–1998)[edit]

As the candidate of the governing party, he defeated Kim Dae-jung in the 1992 presidential election. He was only the third civilian to hold the office, and the first since 1962. The Kim Young-sam administration attempted to reform the government and economy. One of the first acts of his government was to start an anti-corruption campaign, requiring government and military officials to publish their financial records, precipitating the resignation of several high-ranking officers and cabinet members.[11] He had Chun and Roh arrested on charges of corruption and treason.[10] Kim also granted amnesty to thousands of political prisoners, and removed the criminal convictions of pro-democracy protesters who had been arrested during the Gwangju massacre in the aftermath of the Coup d'état of December Twelfth.[11]

The anti-corruption campaign was also part of an attempt to reform the chaebol, the large South Korean conglomerates which dominated the economy. However, the implication of corruption on the part of his second son, led to a loss of confidence; his new ministerial party, the DLP lost its narrow majority in the National Assembly in 1996. Kia Motors collapsed soon thereafter, setting off a chain of events which embroiled South Korea in the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis during the last year of his presidency.[11]

Later life and death[edit]

After his presidency, Kim travelled the world promoting democracy, and speaking at events such as Towards a Global Forum on New Democracies in Taiwan in January 2007.[12]

He died in Seoul on 22 November 2015, from heart failure, at the age of 87.[2]

Personal life[edit]

Kim was a member of the Chunghyun Presbyterian Church and was fluent in Japanese and his native Korean. He was married to Son Myung-soon.[13] He was survived by his children, two sons and three daughters, as well as his five younger sisters.[12]


  1. ^ "Kim Young Sam Facts". Encyclopedia of World Biography. Retrieved 12 November 2015. 
  2. ^ a b "Hospital Official: Ex-SKorean President Kim Young-Sam Dies". New York Times. Retrieved 21 November 2015. 
  3. ^ "Former South Korean President Kim Young-Sam Dies at 87". ABC News. Retrieved 21 November 2015. 
  4. ^ a b Breen, Michael (19 October 2011). "Kim Young-sam: the man who would be president". The Korea Times. Retrieved 22 November 2015. 
  5. ^ Lee, Kenneth B. (1997). Korea and East Asia: The Story of a Phoenix. Westport, Conn.: Praeger. p. 196. ISBN 027595823X. 
  6. ^ a b c Fowler, James (June 1999). "The United States and South Korean Democratization" (PDF). Political Science Quarterly 114 (2): 265–288. doi:10.2307/2657739. 
  7. ^ a b c Breen, Michael (15 February 2012). "Inner circle collapses: Kim Jae-gyu and Cha Ji-cheol". The Korea Times. Retrieved 22 November 2015. 
  8. ^ Vogel, Ezra F.; Kim, Byung-Kook (2011). The Park Chung Hee Era: The Transformation of South Korea. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. pp. 166–167. ISBN 0674058208. 
  9. ^ a b Seth, Michael J. (2010). A Concise History of Modern Korea: From the Late Nineteenth Century to the Present. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield. p. 187. ISBN 0742567133. 
  10. ^ a b "Former President Kim Young-sam dies at age 87". The Korea Herald. 21 November 2015. Retrieved 21 November 2015. 
  11. ^ a b c Kihl, Young Whan (2005). Transforming Korean Politics: Democracy, Reform, and Culture. Armonk: M.E. Sharpe. pp. 102–142. ISBN 0765614286. 
  12. ^ a b "Hospital official: Former South Korean President Kim Young-sam". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 22 November 2015. 
  13. ^ Yonhap news agency. 10 March 1997.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Roh Tae-woo
President of South Korea
25 February 1993 – 25 February 1998
Succeeded by
Kim Dae-jung