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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 March, 2004, 10:11 GMT
S Korea to debate impeachment
South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun
President Roh was criticised by South Korea's election watchdog
South Korea's opposition parties have tabled the country's first impeachment motion, against President Roh Moo-hyun.

An opposition spokesman said 159 of the National Assembly's 273 members backed the move, more than the simple majority needed to force a debate.

The opposition acted after Mr Roh was found to have breached election rules.

Correspondents say the impeachment appears to be politically driven ahead of next month's elections, and Mr Roh is unlikely to be forced from office.

The BBC's correspondent in Seoul says the opposition hopes to put the impeachment motion before the National Assembly as soon as possible. Once there, legislators have between 24 hours and 72 hours to vote, and the vote needs a two thirds majority to be passed.

But our correspondent says that even if the National Assembly votes to impeach, Mr Roh it was unlikely to lead to the president leaving office because the measure would then go to the constitutional court.

Six out of the court's nine judges would have to back the impeachment, which observers say is unlikely.

A spokesman for the National Assembly said the signatures collected in support of the impeachment motion included 108 members from the main opposition Grand National Party (GNP) and 51 from the smaller opposition Millennium Democratic Party (MDP).

"We believe we won't have big difficulties in passing it," said Kim Young-chang, spokesman for the MDP.

Corruption claims

Last week, South Korea's election watchdog ruled that Mr Roh had violated election rules with comments that could unfairly influence next month's general election.

The comments, made in a press conference, called on people to support the minority Uri Party, thereby violating presidential impartiality.

The country's election commission said that the infraction was minor.

Mr Roh has little support in the National Assembly where the GNP and the MDP have an overwhelming majority.

He has also been struggling to shake off corruption claims against his aides.

Prosecutors have accused them of taking about ten-million dollars in illegal donations from businessmen.

But opposition aides are accused of having taken even more money and Mr Roh said earlier this year that he would resign if his camp was found to have taken more than a 10th of the illegal funds raised by the opposition.

The BBC's Charles Scanlon
"159 MPs put their name to the impeachment motion"

Profile: Roh Moo-hyun
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Country profile: South Korea
24 May 03  |  Country profiles

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