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S. Korea Opposition Leader Resigns for 'Good of Party' - 2004-02-22

The head of South Korea's main opposition political party has announced his intention to step down. Choe Byung-yul's decision comes as the Grand National Party attempts to cleanse its scandal-tainted image.

At a news conference in Seoul Sunday, GNP leader Choe Byung-yul said he will quit for the good of the party.

He told reporters that the Grand National Party should elect a new leader as soon as next month and field reform-minded candidates for the April general election.

The party currently holds slightly more than half the seats in the National Assembly but its popularity has plunged in public opinion polls.

Mr. Choe has been under pressure to resign since last week when he said the party should sever all ties with its 2002 presidential candidate. The campaign of Lee Hoi-chang has been tainted by accusations of massive illegal fund raising.

Mr. Choe's call alienated not only Lee supporters, but younger reformists who want the GNP to fix it corrupt reputation.

The four-term 65-year-old lawmaker became the chairman of the GNP last June after the party's loss in the presidential election to democracy activist Roh Moo-hyun.

President Roh's aides also have been hit with allegations of bribery prior to the election. In all, a dozen figures from all of the political parties have been arrested in connection with illegal fund raising during the presidential campaign.