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Kim Young-Sam Gov't
Home > Korea in brief > Kim Young-Sam Gov't

President Kim Young-sam was sworn as president on Feb. 25, 1993 amid upbeat public fanfare, being the first civilian president in three decades. Kim began his five-year term with a pledge to engineer sweeping reforms in all sectors of society, particularly stressing the need to cut once and for all traditional collusive links between politicians and businessmen.

In the early days of his term, Kim enforced a set of reformative programs to public acclaim. For instance, he forced senior public officials and politicians to declare assets of their families and themselves, and expelled politically-minded generals from active service and introduced a real-name financial transactions system.

However, the chief executive soon faltered in his reform drive, apparently amid resistance from conservatives who formed the main stay of his power base. Moreover, some of his reforms were criticized as being prejudiced and unfair.

His waning popularity was evident in the local elections on June 27, 1995, when his ruling party suffered a stunning defeat.

In a symbolic gesture to rejuvenate his sagging party, the president renamed the ruling Democratic Liberal Party, the New Korea Party (NKP). As part of his strategy to win back public support for the NKP and himself, Kim launched a history righting campaign targeted mainly against two former heads of state, Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo.Under the president's initiative, the ruling party huddled together with opposition parties to hammer out a law empowering the prosecution to act against the two ex-presidents, regardless of the statute of limitations.

Prosecutors arrested Chun and Roh and some of their colleagues on charges of rebellion, under the Military Criminal Code, for their roles in the 1979 coup and the Kwangju massacre in May 1980. The two ex-presidents were also charged with graft.

The Seoul District Court sentenced Chun to death and Roh to 22-and-half-a-years in prison. The Seoul Appeals Court reduced Chun's sentence to life imprisonment and Roh's to 17 years, both of which were upheld by the Supreme Court on April 17, 1997.President Kim's action against Chun and Roh paid off, since public support for him was waning.

No sooner had Kim rejoiced over election victories, when public suspicion surfaced that he had received a large sum of Roh's slush fund as campaign funds in the 1992 presidential elections.

Compounding the campaign fund issue and dealing a crushing blow to his image, the Hanbo scandal erupted at the turn of 1997. Hanbo Group Chairman Chung Tae-soo had attained a huge amount of bank loans to finance the construction of his ironworks company in Tangjin without proper collateral, apparently through influential politicians.The opposition camp accused Kim Hyun-chul, the second son of President Kim, of being a central figure in the scandal. They said a large portion of the loans must have flowed into the pockets of ruling camp politicians as kickbacks, and a number of ruling and opposition politicians had in fact, received money from Chung.

At a National Assembly hearing on the scandal, the junior Kim denied guilt or any wrongdoing. But the prosecution arrested him on May 17 on charges of allegedly receiving 6.5 billion won from businessmen, 3.2 billion won of it in kickbacks.

Another incident that marred the image of the Kim Young-sam Administration was controversy over the passage of amendments to labor-related laws, and the Law on the Agency for National Security Planning. With public sentiment sizzling, the ruling and opposition parties worked out and adopted new bills on March 10, 1997, to replace the disputed laws.

Meanwhile, the diplomatically-active president saw a personal goal fulfilled with the country's entry into the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). South Korea was admitted as OECD's 29th member country on Oct. 11, 1997, five years after the nation expressed an interest in joining it.