NEWS & LETTERS, May 2004

Our Life and Times by Kevin A. Barry

Ouster in South Korea

Taking a page from the book of America’s Republican Party, South Korea’s conservative-dominated National Assembly voted to impeach President Roh Moo Hyun on flimsy charges. Outraged, some 50,000 took to the streets to protest what HANKYORREH, a left-leaning newspaper, called "a coup d’etat by old politicians trying to seize power before their terms end."

That was in March. In April’s legislative elections, voters punished the conservatives. The relatively new left-of-center Uri Party won a majority in the National Assembly. This was the first time since 1960 that conservatives had failed to win control of the Assembly. The third spot was taken by the newly formed and leftist Democratic Labor Party, which received 13% of the overall vote. The April vote will surely encourage labor, as well as women’s rights and civil liberties groups. Additionally, the Constitutional Court will now be under severe pressure to overturn the impeachment of President Roh. Finally, the government will be more reluctant than ever to support confrontational policies toward North Korea or to send troops to Iraq, as has been promised to the Bush administration.

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