Affiliated with the Grand National Party and known for his support of the conservative South Korean New Right movement, he also led a union of South Korean teachers.
He graduated from both Korea University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
He came under fire in 2010 for penning a controversial, education-themed article in a South Korean conservative newspaper.
He was born in the city of Gwangju in South Korea's South Jeolla Province.
He and diplomat Ban Ki-Moon both had prominent careers in South Korean politics.