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The name of Kim Dae-Jung, the former President of the Republic of Korea who died in Seoul yesterday, will resonate wherever in Asia people struggle against the fetters imposed by authoritarian regimes.
He was a leader who was willing to risk his life so that his countrymen would be free of the chains imposed by military regimes that ruled Korea from the 1960s onwards.
His courage in the face of danger to life and liberty shone like a beacon throughout the period of his struggles and, without doubt, the memory of its example will continue to inspire those on the continent who battle to free their societies from oppressive controls.
Kim Dae-Jung will also be remembered for his firm rejection of the argument, espoused by sundry Asian autocrats, that societies imbued with Confucian values are apt to prioritize social order and prosperity above the disorderly freedom of contentious democracies.
It was an argument he rebutted as intellectually shoddy and scorned for its implication that Asians would acquiesce to curtailments to their rights as long as their stomachs were full and their streets free of strife.
His name will occupy an imperishable niche in the history of the struggles waged by national patriots who were prepared to pay the highest price so that their people could enjoy the full measure of their humanity under freed polities.
19 August 2009