Frederic Willem de Klerk

Article

November 30, 2021

Frederik Willem de Klerk (Afrikaans: Frederik Willem de Klerk; 18 March 1936 – 11 November 2021) was a South African politician, President of South Africa from 1989 to 1994, and President from 1994 to 1996. He served as vice president for years. As South Africa's last head of state during the era of white minority rule, de Klerk and the de Klerk government abolished apartheid and introduced universal suffrage. An ideologically conservative and economically liberal, Klerk led the Kuomintang from 1989 to 1997. Born into an influential Africaner family in Johannesburg, de Klerk studied at Pochefstrom University before pursuing a career in law. He joined the closely associated Nationalist Party, was elected to the National Assembly, and entered the white minority government led by Peter le Willem Botta, where he served as minister in succession. As Minister, de Klerk supported and enforced apartheid, a system of segregation that gave privileges to white people living in South Africa. After Botta resigned from the presidency in 1989, de Klerk replaced him, first as National Party leader and then as president. Observers expected him to continue the Botta regime's apartheid policy, but de Klerk decided to end this policy. He knew that racial hostility and increased violence were driving South Africa into a racial civil war. In the midst of this violence, the South African National Security Forces committed widespread human rights violations and promoted violence between the Xhosa and Zulu. De Klerk allowed an anti-apartheid march, legalized various anti-apartheid parties that were previously banned, and freed imprisoned anti-apartheid activists, including Nelson Mandela. And he ended South Africa's long-running nuclear weapons program. De Klerk negotiated with Mandela to completely abolish apartheid and establish a transition to universal suffrage. In 1993, de Klerk publicly apologized for the harmful effects of apartheid policies, but apartheid itself did not apologize. De Klerk oversaw the 1994 non-racial elections in which Mandela won the African National Congress (ANC). The National Party, led by de Klerk, took second place in this election. De Klerk became Vice President of the National Reunification Government, a coalition government led by Mandela's African National Congress. During his time as Vice-President, De Klerk supported the government's liberal-oriented economic policies, but wanted full amnesty for political crimes, which he clashed with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, established with the aim of investigating past human rights violations. This worsened his relationship with Mandela, but later improved his relationship. In May 1996, when the Kuomintang opposed the new constitution, de Klerk withdrew from the coalition. The party was dissolved the following year and reorganized into the New Kuomintang. After retiring from his political career in 1997, De Klerk devoted himself to teaching on the international stage. De Klerk was a controversial figure. He won many awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize, and was widely praised for his contributions to abolition of apartheid and the introduction of universal suffrage in South Africa. Conversely, anti-apartheid activists have criticized him for ignoring human rights violations by the South African National Security Forces while only making a legitimate apology related to apartheid. Meanwhile, some far-right or white supremacists�

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