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Funeral held for icon of Korea’s political left

July 28,2018
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The funeral procession of Justice Party Rep. Roh Hoe-chan, who died on Monday, passes the National Assembly in Yeouido, western Seoul, on Friday. [YONHAP]
Thousands attended a funeral service for Rep. Roh Hoe-chan, an icon of progressive politics, at the National Assembly on Friday.

Moon Hee-sang, speaker of the National Assembly, hosted the service for the lawmaker who jumped to his death earlier this week amid an investigation into his political funds.

“You were a pathfinder and symbol of progressive politics,” Moon said in his eulogy. “You did not hesitate to fight for justice against an insurmountable authority. As your final message showed, you felt pain over workers’ lives and rejoiced at the victory of the socially underprivileged. Although you’ve stopped here, the values and spirit that you pursued will resolutely continue.”

Roh, 61, was floor leader of the small opposition Justice Party before committing suicide on Monday. Long known for his clean image, the politician was widely admired for his pithy sound bites and sharp criticism against the establishment.

When he leapt to his death, he was under investigation for an allegation that he took 50 million won ($45,000) from an aide of a power blogger known as Druking, who is at the center of Korea’s own “fake news” scandal. The blogger allegedly manipulated comments on social media for partisan purposes by up-voting certain opinions.

Roh denied the allegations, but in a suicide note, he admitted to taking 40 million won, though it had nothing to do with illicit favors, he wrote.

The lawmaker participated in the pro-democracy movement against then-President Park Chung Hee in 1973 when he was a high school student. After entering politics in 2004, he devoted his life to the rights of the working class and progressive politics.

Roh helped the Justice Party gain public support when he served as floor leader of the party from 2016 to 2018. Last week, the party’s approval rating soared to 10 percent.

Thousands of people from all walks of life said farewell to Roh during the five-day mourning period, according to party officials. “Roh’s political career was about representing the voices of the underprivileged and changing their lives,” Lee Jeong-mi, leader of the Justice Party, said in her eulogy.

Yonhap