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Last Updated: Friday, 12 March, 2004, 19:00 GMT
Anger at South Korean impeachment
South Korean protesters
There have been dramatic scenes both inside and outside the parliament
Supporters of South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun have rallied outside parliament against his impeachment.

They chanted slogans denouncing Mr Roh's suspension by the National Assembly as a mutiny.

Mr Roh was accused of illegally endorsing a pro-government party and incompetence ahead of next month's general elections.

Prime Minister Goh Kun is acting head of state - until the Constitutional Court rules on the impeachment.

Shares prices tumbled and police were put on nationwide alert following the vote, which sparked angry scenes in the national assembly.

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun
I hope that within a few months, I will be able to carry on my job as president. I will neither get frustrated nor give up
Roh Moo-hyun

Scuffles broke out even before the vote as security guards ended protests by MPs loyal to Mr Roh, dragging them outside.

Legislators had been occupying the parliamentary rostrum for three days when Speaker Park Kwan-yong arrived with the guards who proceeded to remove them one by one, clearing the path for the vote to be called.

"You asked for it," the speaker said as supporters of Mr Roh shouted and wept at the unprecedented impeachment, some crying "stop the coup".

The opposition parties which dominate the chamber impeached Mr Roh by a vote of 193 to 2, suspending his powers.

Awaiting confirmation

The impeachment now goes to the Constitutional Court where six out of the court's nine judges will have to back the measure for it to be approved.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
President Roh's powers suspended
Case decided by Constitutional Court, could take six months
PM Goh Kun becomes acting head of state
15 April National Assembly elections to go ahead

Looking relaxed and smiling, Mr Roh confirmed that his impeachment would be formalised later on Friday but added that he believed the court would throw it out.

The president's powers are suspended until the constitutional court's ruling, which could take up to six months.

The impeachment is the culmination of a row between Mr Roh and the opposition-controlled National Assembly. Analysts say the charges against Mr Roh were relatively minor, and the stand-off has more to do with jockeying for the 15 April general elections.

Breach of rules

The main charge against Mr Roh is that he violating his neutrality as president by publicly supporting the new Uri Party.

But analysts say the opposition's real reason for acting is it fears losing seats to the Uri party in next month's elections.

IMPEACHMENT BILL'S CHARGES:
Roh "breached election rules" by calling for support for Uri party
Aides "involved in corruption scandals"
Economy's poor growth
Before the session began, the president tried to defuse the crisis by apologising: "Regardless of which side is wrong, I offer my sincere apology for the situation in which the political confrontation has led to an impeachment move against me," Mr Roh said.

Mr Roh came to office last year promising to clean up corrupt links between government and big business.

But he has been severely weakened by allegations that his closest aides and family members took up to $10m in illegal election funds from businessmen.

However, 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 tenth of the illegal funds raised by the opposition.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Charles Scanlon
"Government supporters went down fighting"



SEE ALSO:
Markets reeling in South Korea
12 Mar 04  |  Business
In pictures: Impeachment battle
12 Mar 04  |  In Pictures
South Korean papers deplore Roh crisis
11 Mar 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Profile: Roh Moo-hyun
13 Oct 03  |  Asia-Pacific
S Korea president's aides charged
29 Dec 03  |  Asia-Pacific
S Korea slush scandal spreads
22 Oct 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: South Korea
24 May 03  |  Country profiles


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