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This is a very difficult topic to write about. Out of the 60 million, give or take a few million, South Koreans currently alive today, it is very hard to select just one South Korean as my favorite.
Then when I factor in all the Koreans who have done so much for their country throughout its history that just makes this task even harder to do. There are just too many people to select for.
For example, there is Hyeokgeose the founder of the Silla kingdom that had Gyeongju as its capital for 1000 years. Then there was Janggeum who was the only Royal female doctor in Korean history.
Or Empress Myeongsong who led the Korean nation through her husband the king to modernization. She also worked hard to stop the Japanese from invading Korea and annexing it. Unfortunately, her efforts failed as she was assassinated in her palace in Seoul in the early 20th century.
Finally, there is King Sejong who was the 4th King of the Joseon dynasty. He was credited with a number of inventions as well as updating the Korean language making it simpler to learn, read and write. He did this by creating the Hangeul alphabet.
With so many top people to choose from it was not easy in deciding who my favorite Korean was. But in the end, I found I needed to find someone closer to modern times who most people had heard of and who also did a lot more than be a singer or actor.
I finally settled on Kim Dae-Jung the former president of South Korea. He was born in 1924 on a small Korean island in South Cholla province. During his life, he was able to achieve and complete many accomplishments that previous Korean leaders did not receive.
He grew up in a Japanese controlled Korea and graduated from Mokpo High School in 1943. He started working in a Japanese owned company that same year and in 2 years was able to take it over, turning himself and the company into very wealthy entities.
The Korean War was not kind to him as he was captured by the communists and sentenced to die. Yet that was not his destiny. He was able to escape and his experiences helped him become a supporter of democracy.
He did not like some of the policies early Korean presidents held to and that may have been the reason that it took him 5 tries before being elected to a seat in the National Assembly in 1961.
Unfortunately, he lost that seat when Gen. Park Chung-Hee successfully led a coup against the president of the country. His career is marked more by losing than winning. After democracy was restored Kim Dae-Jung became president of the National Democratic Party, he ran for president of Korea against Gen. Park but lost again.
His struggle did not end there as his pro-democracy fight had him arrested twice in the 70s and once in the 80s. A short exile kept him out of South Korea for 5 years but when he was allowed to return he continued to fight for proper democracy.
After his return, he ran for the national presidency twice more but lost both times. It wasn’t till his third attempt in 1997 that he finally won the president’s office. The best is yet to come.
During his term in office, he was able to bring his country out of the financial crisis that had struck it before he became President, He did this through restructuring the banking, business, and labor industries removing the corruption that permeated those sectors.
After that, he created his sunshine policy which strived to reunite North and South Korea and bringing to back to one nation again. Because of his persistence, hard work, and solid policies, Kim Dae-Jung won the Nobel Peace Prize. The only Korean to win a Nobel award.
His life and character are what make him stand out from all the Koreans that have lived or are living today. He never gave up and worked hard for his country even when it cost him dearly.
So I hope you like this essay on my favorite south Korean personality. Feel free to share your thoughts regarding this essay in the comment section, I would love to hear from you guys.