(Roh death) (5th LD) Former S. Korean President Roh dies in apparent suicide
SEOUL, May 23 (Yonhap) -- Former President Roh Moo-hyun leapt to his death while hiking in mountains above his hometown Saturday, police said, amid an investigation into a bribery scandal that has sent several of his relatives and confidants to jail.
Roh, 62, jumped from a cliff about 30 meters high while hiking in Bongha Village early Saturday morning. He was rushed to a hospital in the southern port city of Busan around 8:13 a.m. and died around 9:30 a.m. from external head injuries, the hospital and the Gyeongnam Provincial Police Agency confirmed in official briefings.
In a suicide note left on his personal computer just over an hour before he left home, Roh spoke of emotional suffering and asked to be cremated, police said. A special investigative team has been organized to examine Roh's death.
"The pain that I caused to so many people are too great. The pain in the coming days is unfathomable," Roh's note, released by the police, said.
"Don't be sorry. Don't blame anyone. It's fate," the note said. It also conveyed his desire to be cremated and that a small headstone be set up near his home.
Roh's funeral is expected to be held at Bongha Village, some 450 kilometers south of Seoul, where Roh has been living since his retirement in February last year, aides said.
Roh, who served as the country's president from 2003 to 2008, had been under investigation in a bribery scandal that had tarnished his self-made image as a "clean politician."
Becoming the third former South Korean president to be summoned and questioned by prosecutors for alleged corruption, Roh has been accused of receiving at least US$6 million from a businessman, payments that allegedly went to his relatives including his wife. Roh denied personal ties to the scandal, claiming he did not know about the transactions until after he retired.
Roh had been put under mounting stress from the ongoing probe, aides say, especially after his elder brother and several political confidants were recently placed under arrest on separate corruption charges.
He was summoned to Seoul and was grilled for some 10 hours last month, making a public apology just before undergoing questioning.
A left-wing politician who believed in engaging and reconciling with North Korea, Roh had continued his predecessor Kim Dae-jung's so-called "sunshine policy" toward Pyongyang, which was later slammed and abandoned by the incumbent Lee Myung-bak.
Roh, a self-taught human rights lawyer, had a somewhat turbulent political career, becoming the country's first leader to be impeached in 2004. He was reinstated after two months of suspension.