Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

S. Korea Seeks Stability after Debacle ; Friday's Presidential Impeachment - and Ensuing Civic Unrest - Tests the Government as Key Elections Approach

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

S. Korea Seeks Stability after Debacle ; Friday's Presidential Impeachment - and Ensuing Civic Unrest - Tests the Government as Key Elections Approach

Article excerpt

The downfall of President Roh Moo-hyun as South Korea's chief of state opens a period of potentially explosive protest, amid vows of continuity and stability by those whom he had appointed to high posts during nearly 13 months in power.

As Mr. Roh's adherents opened what they promise will be daily protests, the acting chief of state, Prime Minister Goh Kun, pledged to carry out all the policies Roh had pursued.

For the government, the task becomes one of assuring stability in the run-up to crucial National Assembly elections next month, as the country attempts to restore confidence in the economy and pursues reconciliation with North Korea.

Mr. Goh, who has switched parties during his long career in politics, projected the image of one who would play a subdued caretaker role. His first priority was to assure the country, on television, that the armed forces would "forestall any gap in national security" amid multilateral negotiations on North Korea's nuclear programs.

Goh and the ministers of finance, defense, and foreign affairs sought to allay the widespread uncertainty that engulfed the country after the National Assembly on Friday voted 193 to 2 to impeach Roh on grounds of a seemingly trivial election law violation.

They all planned to keep their jobs while Roh remains in the Blue House, plotting his appeal to a Constitutional Court that has up to 180 days to review the impeachment, the first under Korea's "democracy Constitution," established in 1987 after massive protests against military-dominated regimes. For the impeachment to stand, six of the nine judges must approve it.

North Korea was quick to exploit the issue, denouncing Roh's impeachment as a "political rebellion" carried out by politicians eager to drive "a knife into the heart of the public," terms used in rallies by South Korean leftist groups.

At the same time, North Korea signaled a new strategy of using the impeachment in negotiations. Citing "chaos" in South Korea, the North called for moving the next round of trade talks with South Korean officials - set for Monday and Tuesday in a city north of Seoul - to Kaesong, site of a new industrial zone on the North Korean side of the border. …

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