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Tuesday, February 24, 1998 Published at 16:32 GMT

No tears for outgoing President

Apologising to the nation for the economic mess, after coming to power with high expectations.

Kim Young Sam was a former opponent of the regime and the first civilian president of South Korea.

[ image: The 1993 result gave Kim a clear victory]
The 1993 result gave Kim a clear victory
Elected in 1993 he embarked on a series of reforms to try to clean up the political system and undermine the long South Korean tradition of close links between businessmen and politicians. This process culminated in the jailing of his two predecessors as President, Chun Doo Hwan and Roh Tae Woo, on corruption charges.

But after a promising start with moves towards increased accountability and transparency, things began to turn sour and Kim is now accused of many of the corrupt practises he had promised to combat.

In May this year his son, Kim Hyun Chul, was arrested and charged with tax evasion and receiving bribes. The key event in his downfall was the spectacular collapse of the Hanbo Steel company, which folded in January 1997 with debts of $6.2 billion.

Eight politicians, bankers and businessmen, including close associates of the President were charged in relation to the collapse.

The Hanbo group was accused of financing much of Kim's 1992 election campaign and in return gaining favours from state controlled banks and the President's son was implicated in the scandal.

As a result of the crises and especially the corruption scandal, Kim Young Sam was left severely weakened and proved incapable of delivering serious reform.

Many of the problems in both South Korean politics and the economy appear deeper and more entrenched than at first sight. There are still strong authoritarian tendencies within the state and a number of repressive laws, restricting freedom of speech and association, remain on the books.

The President is constitutionally barred from seeking a second term. In April 1996 elections, the ruling centre right New Korea Party lost its absolute majority of the 299 seat National Assembly. The centre left National Congress for New Politics came second and the Conservative United Liberal Democrats came third.

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