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Kim Dae-jung: controversial bid for 'sunshine'

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The summit was the crowning moment in Kim Dae-jung's pursuit of his "Sunshine Policy." Advocates and critics have long debated the success of the policy, hailed for easing the North-South confrontation in the decades after the 1953 cease-fire that ended the Korean War, but denounced for failing to compel the North to give up its nuclear program while avoiding the issue of widespread human rights abuses in the North.

A populist leader

A populist leader with a strong regional backing, Mr. Kim emerged as the voice of the pent-up sentiments of Korea's southwestern Cholla provinces, oppressed by rulers going deep into Korea's dynastic history and then by latter-day leaders with roots in the southeastern provinces.

Kim's victory in 1997 as the first opposition leader to win the presidency culminated a career that began in Mokpo, the port city in South Cholla near the tiny island where he was born, by most accounts, in 1925. The offspring of a farming family, Kim attended high school in Mokpo and served in an unofficial naval militia unit.

After the war, Kim edited a local newspaper and entered politics as a leftist activist in a setting in which he could play upon a deep-seated yearning to escape from heavy-handed rule.

Kim, who converted to Roman Catholicism in 1957, married Lee Hee-ho, a YWCA executive and devout Methodist, in 1962, after the death of his first wife.

Kim challenged Park Chung-hee, the general who seized power in May 1961, in the 1971 election, winning 43.6 percent of the votes.

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