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Special Event

South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung Wins Nobel Peace Prize

Aired October 13, 2000 - 4:58 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LINDA STOUFFER, CNN ANCHOR: Despite all the violence and fears of war we are going to begin this morning with a celebration of peace. This is breaking news now, because in just about 30 seconds, in the room you're looking at right there in Oslo, Norway, the chairman of the Nobel Committee Gunnar Berge will read the name of this year's winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Well, unlike past years when there often seemed to be a clear favorite, most experts say it is really a toss up this year and we're waiting for this announcement any minute now. The name mentioned most often as people speculate about a possible winner is South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung who has brought his country closer than ever to peace with North Korea and reduced tensions between the two countries that have officially been at war for half a century now.

Other prominent names on the list include European politicians who've worked toward peace in the Balkans. There are some nominees whose names have come up before. It looks like we're about to start. We'll listen in.

GUNNAR BERGE, CHAIRMAN, NOBEL COMMITTEE (through translator): (INAUDIBLE) ...for year 2000 will be given to Kim Dae-Jung for his work for democracy and human rights in South Korea and in eastern Asia, generally, and for peace and reconciliation with the northern Korea. Under southern Korea's authoritative 10 years, Kim Dae-Jung was -- despite several threats against his own life and long periods of exile -- was still the leading spokesman for democracy in the country. When, in 1997, he was chosen to the president of the Republic, this represented South Korea's definitive step into the world's democracies.

As president, Kim Dae-Jung has worked for securing the democracy and for stimulating reconciliation internally in South Korea. With great moral force, Kim Dae-Jung has been a front figure in South Asia for the universal human rights against attempts to limit those rights in Asia. His work in Burma against submissive attempts in Timor has been a great encouragement for people. Kim Dae-Jung has tried to win over 50 years of wars between North and South Korea. His work has reduced the tension between the two countries and there is now a hope that the Cold War will end also in Korea. Kim Dae-Jung has worked for reconciliation with other of South Korea's neighboring countries, especially Japan.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee will express their support to what North Korea and other countries' leaders have done to support to work of reconciliation on the Korean peninsula.

(speaking in English): The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2000 to Kim Dae-Jung for his work for democracy and human rights in South Korea and East Asia in general. And for peace and reconciliation with North Korea in particular. In the course of...

STOUFFER: OK, as you have just heard, live from Norway, the winner of the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize is Kim Dae-Jung in South Korea. The gentlemen right there is reading his statement now in English, but he praised Kim Dae-Jung for all his work for human rights in South Korea, and he has also been honored for his peace and reconciliation efforts with North Korea.

We have more now on Kim Dae-Jung's life and his career and his work in peace.

Sohn Jie-Ae reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SOHN JIE-AE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Even with a historic summit with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Il, few believe it will be easy for South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung to open a new era of peace on the Korean peninsula. But nothing has ever come east for Kim, who has fought uphill battles and survived life-threatening situations throughout his political career.

Kim was elected to parliament in the early 1960s, just days before a military coup by then Gen. Pak Chung Hee. Kim's fiery and provocative calls for democracy almost got him killed several times. In 1973, South Korean secret agents tried to dump him into the sea. He was also given the death sentence by military dictator Chun Doo Hwan, and only managed to survive with the intervention of the United States. He also carries a limp from a suspected assassination attempt.

In 1980, Kim was living in exile in the United States when his home town of Kwangju erupted in a pro-democracy uprising. Kim made an emotional plea for international intervention while hundreds of his countrymen were killed by South Korean paratroopers. Upon his return in 1985, Kim supported a nationwide pro-democracy movement that toppled the military government.

With his presidential election in 1998, he became the first opposition leader to reach the office. Kim has maintained a liberal stance toward the North throughout his political career, even as he was branded a Communist sympathizer. The Communist card used against him time and again to turn conservative votes against him.

This liberal position developed into the sunshine policy, or active engagement with the North, a policy some credit with achieving the recent mood of reconciliation on the Korean peninsula. But Kim's toughest battle could still lie ahead. While symbolic gestures abound, there has yet been any concrete moves to reduce the military tension on the world's most heavily fortified border. And that issue, critics say, is what will determine whether Kim once again emerges as a survivor.

Sohn Jie-Ae, CNN, Seoul.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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