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Pro-Roh Party Wins Big in S. Korea Elections - 2004-04-15

The votes are in and the party that supports impeached President Roh Moo Hyun has scored a convincing victory in South Korea's legislative election.

Voters handed the reformist Uri party an outright majority in Thursday's election for South Korea's parliament, known as the National Assembly.

The cheers went up at Uri party headquarters as the numbers came in. By late Thursday night Seoul time, Uri had won 151 out of 299 legislative seats. The party entered the election holding just 49 seats.

The rival Grand National Party, or GNP, won 122 seats. And the leftist Democratic Labor party won 10 seats, gaining a voice in the parliament for the first time in its history.

The Uri Party was formed last year by supporters of President Roh Moo-Hyun. He was impeached last month for violating an election law, and is now awaiting a court ruling to see whether he can return to office.

Many Koreans expressed anger at the GNP, which spearheaded the impeachment motion through the legislature.

Uri party candidates capitalized on that emotion throughout their campaigns, which also focused on cleaning up corruption in government.

Uri Party Chairman Chung Dong-Young says voters have sent a resounding message.

Mr. Chung says voters will not tolerate corrupt officials or the president's impeachment.

South Korea's Constitutional Court is widely expected to reject Mr. Roh's impeachment within five months. That means for the first time in South Korea's history, a liberal, reformist president may have a majority in the National Assembly.

The legislature has been controlled by the conservative GNP during the terms of President Roh and his predecessor, Kim Dae-Jung.

How the majority will translate into concrete policy remains to be seen. But Uri party leaders say they will not hesitate to advance their agenda of clean government, even if it means prosecuting political allies.