July 23, 2009 / 8:49 AM / 10 years ago

South Korea's Kim Dae-jung back on respirator

SEOUL, July 23 (Reuters) - Former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for brokering the first summit between leaders of the rival Koreas, is back in intensive care and on a respirator, a hospital official said on Thursday.

Kim, 85, a former political prisoner, is best known overseas for his 2000 meeting in Pyongyang with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il which helped warm ties between the two states that have not yet officially ended their 1950-53 war.

"Kim Dae-jung was moved to a normal hospital room around seven in the evening on Wednesday at his request," Yonsei Severance Hospital spokesman Lee Sung-man said.

"However, he was moved back to the intensive care unit and under a respirator early this morning because of a pulmonary embolism, which can occur in elderly patients. Kim’s vitals have been returning to normal since three in the afternoon today, but the respirator has not been removed."

The former leader was taken to hospital last week with pneumonia.

A major figure in the country’s fight for democracy who survived several assassination attempts before taking office, Kim served as president from 1998 to 2003.

The meeting in Pyongyang was the culmination of his "Sunshine Policy", meant to tempt the North towards eventual and peaceful reunification with the promise of massive financial incentives.

But relations with the impoverished neighbour have returned to the freezer since conservative Lee Myung-bak became president almost 1-½ years ago, ending a once free-flow of aid unless the North stopped trying to build an atomic arsenal — something it has refused to do. (Reporting by Christine Kim, writing by Jonathan Thatcher; Editing by Sugita Katyal)

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