Woo then plunged into politics and was elected president of South Korea in December 1987, defeating longtime opposition leaders Kim Young Sam and Kim Dae Jung, who split the opposition vote. Woo took office in early 1988. In foreign affairs, he vigorously pursued a Nordpolitik that called for rapprochement with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK, North Korea), the Soviet Union, and the People's Republic of China (PRC). This policy led to the normalization of relations with the Soviet Union in 1990, and by 1992 South Korea had established diplomatic ties with all of the East European nations and the PRC.
Meanwhile, in September 1990 South Korean Prime Minister Kang Young Hun met in Seoul with his North Korean counterpart Yon Hyong Muk in the first such meeting of leaders of the two Koreas. It resulted in the December 1991 Basic Agreement on North-South Reconciliation, Nonaggression, Exchange, and Cooperation and the Agreement on the Non-Nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Earlier that same year, North and South Korea were admitted simultaneously to the United Nations (UN). Woo retired from the presidency in February 1993.
In 1995 Woo was tried, convicted, and sentenced to seventeen years' imprisonment for his part in the 1979 military mutiny and coup and for corruption while in office. He was released under a special amnesty in December 1997.
Oberdorfer, Don. The Two Koreas: A Contemporary History. Revised and updated ed. New York: Basic Books, 2002.; Yu-hsin Wang. Taetongnyong Roh Tae-woo Chon [The Biography of President Roh Tae Woo]. Translated by Kang Chung-hee. Seoul: Usin-sa, 1993.