By Biren Babbitt
BBC News, Seoul
Shin Mu-soo was held responsible for South Korea’s history The first prime minister of South Korea, who was also the former head of the country’s military regime, has died aged 90. Shin Mu-soo was subjected to two trials and a lengthy prison sentence for financial irregularities, racketeering and blackmail in the early 1990s. He became the leader of the ruling Saenuri party, a powerful position during the long economic boom years. Analysts say Shin was one of the people directly responsible for South Korea’s rapid development from a desperately poor country to a fast-growing, freewheeling economy. He was one of the few politicians of his generation that emerged unscathed from the recent scandal which saw six of the country’s top politicians being found guilty of corruption. Beginning political life Many South Koreans knew only of Mr Shin as a leader of South Korea’s military junta between 1979 and 1987, accused of presiding over the summary execution of 1,700 civilians in a disastrous crackdown on civic activists. His wife, daughter and two granddaughters have also been accused of involvement in the crackdown, but have never been tried or taken into custody. After three years in prison for his ties to the military, Mr Shin was released on medical grounds, and returned to politics. In 1987, the country held its first multi-party presidential election. Mr Shin was elected to parliament, and in 1989 was made prime minister. He became one of the most powerful figures in South Korea’s new right-wing, free-market politics, claiming the powerful post of leader of the ruling Saenuri party. His political career came to an abrupt end in 1992, when he resigned after two years in office amid a series of legal scandals. Mr Shin’s last act as prime minister was to declare South Korea’s membership of the European Economic Community (EEC). Before that, he was accused of maintaining close links with Americans. South Korea was one of the main beneficiaries of Washington’s deployment of troops at its border with North Korea during the Korean War.
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