Friday, March 12, 2004

South Korea Parliament Impeaches President

Why am I not surprised by this? Mr. Anti-American Man-of-the-People has landed himself in seriously hot water.

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- Parliament voted to impeach President Roh Moo-hyun on illegal electioneering and incompetence charges Friday following hours of scuffles and dramatic protests.

Roh's presidential powers will be suspended while the matter is referred to the Constitutional Court for final approval to unseat the leader. The court has 180 days to rule.

The impeachment passed by a vote of 193 to 2, well above the 181 votes needed for the measure. Many pro-Roh lawmakers had been forcibly removed from the chamber by Assembly security and were unable to vote.

A shoving match was sparked earlier when pro-Roh Uri Party members tried to stop Assembly Speaker Park Kwan-yong from taking the podium, the only place he can call a vote.

Assembly security officers then moved in to begin removing lawmakers trying to block his progress. Park had warned Thursday that he might exercise his right to have security officials clear the lawmakers.

Live television footage showed security officers dragging out screaming Uri members one by one.

As the voting proceeded by secret ballot, opposition members applauded and screaming Roh backers chanted that it was a ``coup.'' Other Uri Party members broke into tears and sang the national anthem.

Speaker Park admonished them, saying ``You asked for it.''

Lawmakers loyal to Roh had planned to stall for time in the hope that the ouster motion would automatically expire on Friday evening.

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Earlier Friday, a man attempted to drive his car up the steep steps into the Assembly hall in protest. When the car stalled, the man got out and set the car on fire, said police Sgt. Lee Sun-kyun.

``I will kill them all!'' the man shouted as Assembly guards overpowered him.

On Thursday, a Roh supporter set himself on fire outside parliament, shouting ``Let's block impeachment!''

The embattled leader has yet to apologize for the flash point of the impeachment attempt: accusations that he broke election laws by stumping for the Uri Party in the upcoming April 15 parliamentary campaign.

Roh does not belong to a party, but has said he wants to join Uri.

Roh's supporters come across as a bunch of raving lunatics. This really is an ugly business, and I won't even dare to guess where it will all end.