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Anyone follow S. Korea's election?

Old 12-19-07, 09:16 AM
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Anyone follow S. Korea's election?

SEOUL, South Korea - Former Hyundai CEO Lee Myung-bak claimed victory Wednesday in South Korea's presidential election as voters overlooked fraud allegations to give him a landslide win on hopes he will revive the economy.

Lee's two main rivals conceded defeat following partial results showing him winning nearly double the votes of his closest competitor in the election that fell on his 66th birthday.

"Today, the people gave me absolute support. I'm well aware of the people's wishes," said Lee, who has also served as Seoul mayor. "I will serve the people in a very humble way. According to the people's wishes, I will save the nation's economy that faces a crisis."

The National Election Commission said Lee had 47.6 percent of the vote and liberal Chung Dong-young was a distant second at 27.1 percent, with 73.6 percent of ballots counted.

The office of President Roh Moo-hyun congratulated Lee on his win.

"We respect the people's choice shown in this election," presidential spokesman Cheon Ho-seon said in a statement.

Lee has pledged to take a more critical view of Seoul's engagement with rival North Korea and seek closer U.S. ties. Efforts to end North Korea's nuclear weapons ambitions stand at a critical juncture, with the communist country set to disclose all its programs for eventual dismantlement by a year-end deadline.

Just days before the election, the parliament voted to authorize an independent counsel's investigation into Lee in a stock manipulation case where prosecutors had already cleared him of wrongdoing. The counsel is to complete the probe before the Feb. 25 inauguration, and Lee has said he would step aside from the presidency if found at fault.

Hundreds of supporters watching results on a giant TV in front of the Grand National Party's headquarters burst into song Wednesday evening as Lee's victory became clear.

"I am very happy and it is like retaking democracy after a decade" of liberal rule, said Park Mi-won, a housewife in her 50s.

Unlike previous elections dominated by debates over security policy with rival North Korea or relations with the United States, this year voters were focused on the economy matters due to concern over sky-high real estate prices, soaring unemployment and a widening gap between rich and poor.

Nicknamed "The Bulldozer" for his get-the-job-done attitude, Lee's support has been bolstered due to dissatisfaction over the five-year term of liberal President Roh, who was constitutionally barred from seeking re-election.

In 2002, Roh was elected after pledging not to "kowtow" to the U.S. while also continuing the rapprochement with the North fostered by his predecessor and fellow liberal Kim Dae-jung, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for his "sunshine" policy of engagement with Pyongyang.

Lee has made the economy central to his campaign, pledging to raise annual growth to 7 percent, double the country's per capita income to US$40,000 and lift South Korea to among the world's top seven economies — known as his "747" pledge.

Lee first gained prominence as head of Hyundai's construction unit that symbolized South Korea's meteoric economic rise in the 1960-70s. As Seoul mayor from 2002-2006, he made his mark by opening up a long-paved-over stream to create a new landmark in the capital that also earned him environmental credibility.

"I feel good that the right person was elected. I voted for him because he is an economic president," said Lee Myung-ja, 60, a housewife who was among crowds gathered outside to watch vote results near the stream in central Seoul. "I hope President Lee Myung-bak will focus on economic growth so as to make the people better-off."

Lee's march to the presidency hit a bump this week when a video was released by his liberal rivals showing him saying in 2000 that he founded a firm implicated in fraud. Although he had admitted the same in printed interviews, the video put the words directly into his mouth.

The case revolves around a Korean-American former business associate of Lee's who faces charges for stock manipulation, embezzlement and forgery after his extradition from the U.S., where he allegedly fled with millions of dollars (euros).

Lee has said the taped comments were taken out of context and denied the allegations.

"I don't feel good that we have a result that is not right before truth was revealed about" the scandal, said Kim Ju-young, 27, an office worker who voted for Chung Dong-young. "But he was elected anyway, so I hope he would concentrate on economic growth."

Analysts say the independent counsel investigation will hound Lee after the election as he would be the country's first president-elect to undergo a criminal probe. By South Korean law, a president-elect can be prosecuted but receives immunity from most criminal lawsuits after inauguration.
On the surface it sounds like this is good thing (or maybe better stated not a bad thing since while they may have been strained a bit I think we've always had pretty good relations w/ SK). It'll be interesting to see if anything comes from the fraud allegation. Overall though it seems like in general we aren't hearing as much about the Koreas these days. I guess things starting to get worked out doesn't make nearly as attractive headlines as things falling apart.
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Old 12-19-07, 09:22 AM
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Thanks for bringing this to our attention. No, I haven't followed it, and for that I am ashamed.
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Old 12-19-07, 07:32 PM
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Finally a conservative gov't back in power here. This should make all the difference in ROK/US relations - civil and military. I don't think we'll see as much toadying up NK either - like that half-assed "historic" summit pt 2 back in October.

BTW, I completely forgot to post this part earlier:

S Korean lawmakers scuffle in parliament
SEOUL, South Korea - South Korean lawmakers came to blows in parliament Friday, and at least one was carried from the building on a stretcher, as two political parties fought over control of the speaker's podium.

Members of the main opposition Grand National Party clashed with pro-government United New Democratic Party lawmakers over bills to impeach three prosecutors who investigated a leading GNP presidential candidate, South Korea's Yonhap news agency said.

GNP lawmakers tried to block access to the speaker's podium in the National Assembly using sofas, metal bars and chains, while their UNDP rivals used their hands and power saws to hack through the barriers, Yonhap said. About 100 lawmakers were involved, the report said.

Several lawmakers scuffled at the podium and one, who appeared to have been knocked unconscious, was carried from the hall on a stretcher. Yonhap said the injured man was a member of the Grand National Party. No details were provided on his injuries or condition.

Lawmakers behind the impeachment motion allege prosecutors concealed the involvement of Lee Myung-bak — a GNP candidate who is widely expected to win a Dec. 19 presidential vote — in a 2001 stock manipulation and embezzlement case, Yonhap said. They want the prosecutors to be impeached and the probe to be reopened.

GNP lawmakers had occupied the Assembly since Thursday to try to stop their rivals from pushing the bills through.

Speaker Lim Chae-jung issued a direct order to bypass the disrupted plenary session and said he expected parliament to vote on the bills by midday Monday, Yonhap said.
The parts they showed on TV were even better - you can probably dig up some more in-depth articles as well. Hell, I'd shell out for pay-per-view CSPAN if they started stuff like this in Congress.
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