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Date 17.07.06 Hit 373
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UnYong KIM's Memoir 72(Graphys)


              


72 Meeting President Mandela: The Legendary God of Liberty

 

 


 


I had several unexpected chances to meet Nelson Mandela, the President of South Africa. The first time that I met him was right after his release from prison on Robin Island, after 27 years. After 1990, after Mandela finished serving his time, IOC President Samaranch invited him to Switzerland, to rest at a hospital for several weeks. I had the opportunity to sit with him at a dinner.  Regardless of the long time that he spent in prison, Mandela had a great smile, and his kind character was very impressive. I listened to his passionate speech about his future vision.

I had another opportunity to meet him at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. I was given a chance to visit Olympic stadium in the same bus with President Mandela. After he became the president, I was given a third chance to meet him in Johannesburg, and once again when he visited Seoul in 1995. He also invited me to his suite at Lausanne Suite when he came.

Capetown, a wonderfully changed South African city, applied to host the 2004 Olympics. President Mandela participated in the 1997 IOC Session in Switzerland, to support the bid. I had a meeting with Mandela in a hotel room. He was intelligent, and patiently led our conversation. I thought that he would not be well informed of the current times, due to his many years in Prison, but I was wrong. He knew exactly about the changes in the modern society. He was worthy of all the respect that the people gave him.

How many people have lived a life as turbulent as Mandela? Born into the world as a tribal chief’s son in South Africa, he fought for rights of black people and fought to change the apartheid system of his country. In 1939, he became the first black lawyer in South Africa and in applying to the Africa National Congress in 1944, established a federation and led the movement for black rights.
Human rights for blacks in South Africa back in the days were simply devastating. There are many movies and books dealing with this issue, and as it can be seen, it is difficult to express in words.

Africans in other countries were becoming liberalized from colonial rule, but South Africa continued to suppress the black people. It was a country where the white minority ruled over the black majority. In these chaotic times, Nelson Mandela sought to educate the black people and dedicated himself to their liberty. The whites, who were threatened by Mandela, charged him with rebellion in 1956. In 1962, he was sentenced to life in prison, and was locked up in a facility for political prisoners in Robin Island.

In prison, Mandela became the spiritual leaders for his fellow blacks, and was the center of the black rights movement. He had become the symbol of black rights and was supported by societies all over the world. He was backed by International Amnesty and various other human rights organizations. After his release in 1991, be returned as the leader of ANC, and led the previously violent and aggressive movements for black rights in a peaceful and reasonable manner. Just like Gandhi fought against the British peacefully, Mandela also used rational and non-violent ways to promote black rights in his country.

Mandela was not only involved in movements for human rights, but he was a man that fought in peace with faith. That is why he was respected by many people around the world. Mandela supported the co-existence of both blacks and whites. He did not forget to respect the rights of all people. He succeeded in transforming the black people’s hatred and vengeance and changed them into a peaceful group.

While the whites held complete control over the country, President De Clerk recognized the rights of the black people. Through elections gave his presidency to Mandela. This was possible only because Mandela fought for the human rights of black people based on harmony and peace.

After Mandela took power, the ANC and other armed black groups were filled with vengeance. However, Mandela convinced the people that there was little time to build a new country, and there was no time to waste on revenge. After the country stabilized, the 50 billion dollars that escaped overseas, returned to South Africa, and the ailing economy started to see improvements. Furthermore, criminal activities rapidly decreased. I listened him very closely in his Office in Johannesburg.

97년 만델라 대통령과 함께.jpg
           With President Mandela(1997)

South Africa, previously a place of revenge and violence, rapidly changed and the blacks and whites came together as one. After stabilizing his country, Mandela sought to contribute to international society. His will to host the Olympics was part of his contribution to international society. He wanted to host the first Olympics in Africa, contribute to world peace, and reaffirm South Africa as a member of international society. Mandela failed in the bidding for Olympics, unfortunately, but I was deeply touched by a leader who sought world peace and harmony.

Mandela lived up to his great reputation in the world of sports as well. The most popular sports in South Africa was rugby and he made a team mixed with black and white players. This was the first time ever that the rugby team saw both white and black members. The black and whites naturally became close to each other, sharing the same sweat as a single team.

After his term was over, he left everything behind and left the world of politics. After he was just released from prison, and after he resigned from his position, Mandela never lost his kindness. He is indeed the true symbol of peace.



 



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