(ATTN: ADDS Lee Jae-myung's reaction in last 4 paras)
By Chang Dong-woo
SEOUL, Oct. 26 (Yonhap) -- South Korean political parties expressed condolences Tuesday over the death of former leader Roh Tae-woo, extending both praise and criticism over the mixed legacy of the general-turned-president.
Roh, who served as president from 1988-93, died Tuesday at 88 after failing to recover from health problems.
The former general has been credited for restoring a direct presidential election and establishing ties with socialist states under his signature Nordpolitik policy.
Roh, however, was accused of leading a military coup with his predecessor, Chun Doo-hwan, in 1979 and his involvement in a brutal crackdown on a pro-democracy civil uprising in the southern city of Gwangju in 1980.
The ruling Democratic Party (DP) paid tributes to the late president while expressing hope for a "more stern historical evaluation" of Roh so that his mistakes would not be repeated.
Rep. Lee Yong-bin, DP spokesperson, said Roh is dictator and a criminal in the eyes of history. But unlike Chun, he later apologized for the oppression of Gwangju through his children and paid all penalties he was meted out, having been convicted of corruption, he noted.
Rep. Her Euna, spokesperson of the main opposition People Power Party (PPP), also credited Roh for recommending Chun to accept the people's demand for a direct presidential election in 1987 in what is known as the "June 29 Declaration," which led to him being elected president later that year.
She also spotlighted South Korea's admittance to the United Nations and diplomacy results through Nordpolitik during his term.
Her said, however, that Roh's involvement in the Dec. 12, 1979, military coup, which ushered in the Chun regime, and the military's killing of civilians during the uprising of Gwangju in May of 1980, were faults that could not be glossed over.
"The PPP will not allow such troubled history to repeat," Her added.
The party's presidential contenders also mourned Roh's death while highlighting his legacy of building ties with socialist states.
"The broadening of our country's diplomatic horizon near the end of the Cold War era, such as the Nordpolitik policy, was a meaningful result," former Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl, a leading PPP presidential contender, said.
Rep. Hong Joon-pyo, another key PPP primary contender, honored the late president on Facebook while crediting Norkpolitik and the war-against-crime initiative as Roh's major policy feats.
Former Jeju Gov. Won Hee-ryong also delivered his tribute to the late president on social media and added that he shares deep condolences with Roh's family.
Lee Jae-myung, the DP's presidential nominee, also expressed his condolences later in the day.
"Former President Roh left both light and shade in our modern history," Lee wrote in a Facebook post.
He appreciated Roh's children apologizing repeatedly to the victims of the Gwangju killings on behalf of him.
Lee initially declined to comment on Roh's death, apparently mindful of the public's mixed feelings toward him.