CNN logo

Infoseek/Big Yellow

Pathfinder/Warner Bros

Barnes and Noble

World banner

Celebrations and uncertainty in South Korea

Kim Dae-jung
President-elect Kim Dae-jung honors the war dead at a national cemetery in Seoul Friday   

Mixed reaction to Kim Dae-jung's election

December 19, 1997
Web posted at: 12:12 p.m. EST (1712 GMT)

SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) -- While South Koreans danced in the streets to celebrate the election of a former dissident as their next president, Kim Dae-jung began his transition to power on Friday by asking South Koreans to prepare for hardships in the country's battle to reinvent itself economically.

Kim, the first opposition candidate to win a South Korean presidential election, takes the helm of a nation that was forced to swallow its considerable pride and accept a record-breaking bail-out package of nearly $60 billion from the International Monetary Fund this month.

There were these developments in the aftermath of Kim's election victory:

  • Tens of thousands of supporters spilled into streets throughout the country, singing and dancing at the news. Kim, 73, is widely admired for his anti-government protests of the 1970s and '80s when he spent many years in prison or under house arrest.

  • Not all Koreans were celebrating, however. Some fear the impact of the IMF plan which could result in the loss of as many as 1 million jobs. Prior to the election, Kim promised voters he would force the IMF to renegotiate the most punitive terms of its bailout. But he later withdrew that pledge.

  • South Korean financial markets reacted negatively as stocks plunged more than 5 percent and a scare over international currency reserves stripped the won -- the South Korean currency -- of some of the gains it clawed back earlier this week.

    Adding to the downturn was news about brokerage house Shinsegi Investment Co. going under, another bankruptcy in a year of corporate failures.

    Financial markets in the United States were down on Thursday and at the start of trading on Friday, amid fears pro-labor Kim would resist fully implementing IMF reforms.

    Kim historical strip
    In 1980 Kim was sentenced to death for instigating a pro-democracy uprising but was exiled to the United States.   
  • The president-elect proposed a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il to work out a permanent peace on the divided Korean Peninsula.

  • President Clinton made a congratulatory call on Thursday night, the White House said. Clinton "pledged to continue the very close strategic partnership we have with the Republic of Korea (South Korea)," spokesman Mike McCurry said on Friday.

South Korea's election commission certified Kim's victory and formally declared him president-elect on Thursday afternoon after the closest election in the country's history. Kim won 40.3 percent of the vote against 38.7 percent for the governing party's Lee Hoi-chang.

Kim is due to assume office on February 25, raising fears the lame-duck administration of President Kim Young-sam will let the economy stumble along for the next two months.

Seoul Bureau Chief Sohn Jie-Ae contributed to this report.


Related stories:

Related sites:

Note: Pages will open in a new browser window

External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.

Infoseek search  

  further reading on South Korea and Politics
Message Boards

Sound off on our message boards

You said it...
To the top

© 1997 Cable News Network, Inc.
All Rights Reserved.

Terms under which this service is provided to you.