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Tuesday, 4 September, 2001, 05:50 GMT 06:50 UK
Vote defeat sinks S Korea cabinet
South Korean National Assembly
Seoul's policy towards the North is under close scrutiny
South Korea's cabinet has offered to resign en masse, a day after parliament passed a motion of no-confidence in the minister in charge of dealings with the North.

Prime Minister Lee Han-dong and 21 other cabinet members tendered their resignations to allow President Kim Dae-jung a free hand to reshuffle his administration, the premier's office said.

A major cabinet shake-up had seemed inevitable after members of the governing coalition voted on Monday with the opposition against the unification minister, Lim Dong-won.

The vote - passed by 148 votes to 119 - came just hours after North Korea had made an official proposal to Seoul for a resumption of talks between the two countries.

China's President Jiang Zemin, on a visit to North Korea, has declared support for such a move.

Lim Dong-won is a key figure in promoting Seoul's "sunshine" policy aimed at constructively engaging the north. He said he would tender his resignation on Tuesday.

Policy undermined

The BBC's Caroline Gluck in Seoul says the vote is not legally binding but it will increase pressure on President Kim Dae-jung to dismiss his minister. That would throw the "sunshine" policy into disarray.

Lim Dong-won
Lim has played a key role in Seoul's "sunshine" policy
The inter-Korean dialogue has been frozen for the past six months, with North Korea unhappy with the tougher line coming from the Bush administration in Washington.

South Korea's main opposition party, the Grand National Party, said Mr Lim's approach to North Korea had failed.

It had called on him to take responsibility for a controversial visit to North Korea last month by a delegation of more than 300 South Korean civic leaders.

Seven of the delegates were later arrested and charged with violating South Korea's anti-communist national security law, which bans activities praising the communist north.

MPs sceptical

Mr Lim, a former head of the national intelligence service, is a close confidant of the president.

South and North Korean soldiers at border
There has been no cross-border dialogue for six months
Our correspondent says many of the national assembly members feel that rapprochement with the North has been costly and brought little benefit to the South.

The no-confidence vote is also a blow to President Kim's shaky minority coalition government. His key ally, the small Conservative United Liberal Democrats, had earlier announced it would support the vote.

North and South Korea have technically been at war for more than half a century, as no peace treaty was signed at the end of their 1950-53 conflict.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Caroline Gluck
"The vote in favour of dismissal dealt a fatal blow"
Professor Jong Son Noh, Korean analyst
"It is a great shock to everyone living in Korea"
See also:

04 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: South Korea's options
03 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Chinese president visits North Korea
03 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
North Korea makes official talks offer
01 Sep 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
Life in the secret state
06 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
S Korea calls for new summit
08 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Seoul's fears over Bush
08 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Bush rules out North Korea talks
22 Feb 01 | Asia-Pacific
N Korea threatens end to missile deal
13 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
Kim Dae-jung: Korean peacemaker
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