South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, right, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, left, inspect honor guard at welcoming ceremony in Pyongyang, North Korea, Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2007. (AP/Korea Pool via Yonhap)
SEOUL, South Korea -- Former South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, embroiled in a broadening corruption scandal, died Saturday after jumping from a mountain cliff behind his rural southern home. He left behind a suicide note, his lawyer said.
Roh, 62, had been hiking in the village of Bongha Saturday morning when he threw himself off the mountainside, lawyer Moon Jae-in told reporters.
He was rushed to Busan National University Hospital in the nearby port city of Busan around 8:15 a.m. (2315 GMT) and died around 9:30 a.m. (0030 GMT) from head injuries, hospital officials said.
The former president left a "brief" suicide note for his family, Moon told reporters at a news conference at the hospital.
MBC television reported that Roh said in the note that things have been "difficult" and he felt he had made "too many people suffer." The note also said Roh wanted his body cremated, according to the report. It did not say how it obtained the note.
Investigators have not seen the suicide note, a Busan police official said. He did not give his name, citing department policy.
President Lee Myung-bak said Saturday that the news was "truly hard to believe" and called Roh's death "sad and tragic," presidential spokesman Lee Dong-kwan said.
Roh, a former human rights lawyer, served as president from 2003 to 2008 campaigning as a "clean" politician in a country with a long history of corruption.
But he and his family have been ensnared in recent weeks in a burgeoning bribery scandal.
Last month, state prosecutors questioned Roh for some 13 hours about allegations that he accepted more than $6 million in bribes from a South Korean businessman while president - accusations that deeply shamed Roh.
"I have no face to show to the people. I am sorry for disappointing you," an emotional-looking Roh told reporters April 30 before departing for questioning in Seoul.
Roh took power after a surprise 2002 election win on a campaign pledge not to "kowtow" to the United States, a pledge that resonated with young voters.
He maintained predecessor President Kim Dae-jung's "sunshine policy" of offering North Korea aid as way to facilitate reconciliation, holding a summit in Pyongyang with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in 2007, the second such meeting between leaders of the wartime rivals.
Roh came from a poor farming family, went to a commercial high school and never received a college education. He studied on his own to pass the difficult bar exam and built a reputation as a lawyer defending students accused of sedition under past military rule. He once was arrested and had his law license suspended for supporting an outlawed labor protest.
Roh was impeached in 2004 for calling on the public to vote for candidates from his Uri Party in parliamentary elections, a violation of the president's political neutrality. He was the first South Korean president to be impeached. He was reinstated after two months of suspension after a court ruled against the impeachment.
Roh's public approval ratings fell amid widespread criticism of his economic policies. His security policies, seen by conservatives as too pro-North Korean, also contributed to the bad ratings.