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Last Updated: Friday, 14 May, 2004, 07:09 GMT 08:09 UK
South Korea's leader reinstated
President Roh Moo-hyun's supporters (14/05.04)
Many South Koreans opposed President Roh's impeachment
South Korea's President Roh Moo-hyun has returned to office after the Constitutional Court overturned his controversial impeachment.

The court said Mr Roh had violated electoral laws, but not gravely enough to remove him from office.

The court's widely-expected decision means Mr Roh is immediately reinstated.

The decision is a defeat for conservative politicians, who took a huge gamble when they voted to strip him of his powers in March.

The court announced its verdict live on national television.

It ruled that Mr Roh had violated his neutrality as president by publicly supporting the liberal Uri Party, which was formed last October, ahead of last month's elections.

But it rejected the additional charges against him, of corruption and incompetence.

IMPEACHMENT BILL'S CHARGES:
Roh "breached election rules" by calling for support for Uri party
Aides "involved in corruption scandals"
Economy's poor growth

Outside the court, Mr Roh's supporters chanted "We got our president back" and "The court decision is a victory for the people".

A large majority of South Koreans opposed the impeachment. His position had been further strengthened by a victory for the Uri Party in the parliamentary elections.

The president is not a member of the Uri Party, but it is made up of reformist legislators loyal to him.

Following the elections, he now commands a majority in the national assembly for the first time.

Liberal platform

The BBC's Charles Scanlon in Seoul says the president will return to office in a much stronger position than before.

Political analysts say the court's decision will allow him to press ahead with reforms he was unable to implement in his first year because of resistance in the opposition-dominated parliament.

According to a presidential spokesman, Mr Roh will address the nation on Saturday, and will then promise to pursue his reformist platform.

Top of the agenda will be the stagnating economy and relations with the United States.

South Korea has so far been dragging its feet over the despatch of 3,000 troops to Iraq, our correspondent says.

Seoul is also uneasy about Washington's tough policy over North Korea's development of nuclear weapons.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Charles Scanlon
"The verdict came as a huge relief for the liberal President's supporters"



SEE ALSO:
S Korea enters new political era
16 Apr 04  |  Asia-Pacific
S Korea's Uri Party wins election
16 Apr 04  |  Asia-Pacific
S Korean president comes out on top
15 Apr 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Profile: Roh Moo-hyun
08 Mar 04  |  Asia-Pacific
S Korea's class conflict sparks fury
13 Mar 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: South Korea
24 May 03  |  Country profiles


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