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Former SKorean president dead, suicide probed: police

Former South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun, who was at the centre of a multi-million dollar corruption probe, plunged to his death off a mountainside on Saturday in a possible suicide.

Police said they were investigating whether Roh, who was in office from 2003-2008, killed himself.

A former aide said the ex-leader jumped off a cliff after leaving a suicide note.

"Ex-president Roh fell down a mountain. He was transported to a hospital where doctors said he was dead on arrival," a spokesman for the National Police Agency told AFP.

"We're investigating whether he fell by accident or committed suicide."

The tragedy occurred after Roh, 62, went hiking with an aide near his retirement home at Bongha in Gimhae district near the southeast coast.

"President Roh jumped off a rock in the mountain behind Bongha village," former chief presidential secretary Moon Jae-In told journalists.

Roh left a brief suicide note for his family, Moon said.

Yonhap news agency said Roh suffered severe head injuries and died after being moved from a smaller hospital to a larger hospital in the city of Busan.

Busan National University Hospital said in a statement that Roh was pronounced dead at 9:30 a.m. (0030 GMT) from head injuries.

TV footage showed the rocky cliff from which Roh fell. Forensic experts were searching the pine-clad terrain where the incident occurred.

The corruption probe centred around a payment worth one million dollars to Roh's wife from a wealthy shoemaker, and a payment by the same man worth five million dollars to the husband of one of Roh's nieces, Yeon Cheol-Ho.

Roh, who was questioned as a suspect by prosecutors, had publicly apologised for his family's involvement in the case but had not admitted personal wrongdoing.

In an unrelated graft case Roh's elder brother was last week jailed for four years for taking more than two million dollars in bribes during his sibling's term in office.

Roh Gun-Pyeong was sentenced for accepting about three billion won (2.36 million dollars) to arrange the acquisition of brokerage Sejong Securities by the state-run National Agricultural Cooperative Federation.

Copyright 2009 AFP Global Edition
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Author:AFP
Publication:AFP Global Edition
Date:May 23, 2009
Words:345
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