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Tuesday, September 04, 2001, updated at 14:40(GMT+8)

Round-Up: S.Korea's Political Earthquake

President Kim Dae-jung is expected to reshuffle his cabinet, senior secretariat team and the ruling Millenium Democratic Party leadership within this week following a political earthquake in the country.

"President Kim will make his decisions as early as this week," said Presidential Spokesman Park Joon-young after Kim canceled his all schedules for Tuesday and began working on new teams.

Kim has accepted all resignations offered by his cabinet ministers including Prime Minister Lee Han-dong, top leaders of his Millennium Democratic Party (MDP) and senior presidential secretaries Tuesday morning.

The political earthquake came one day after the South Korean National Assembly, or parliament, Monday passed a non-confidence bill dismissing Unification Minister Lim Dong-won Monday afternoon with a vote of 148 against 117.

The opposition Grand National Party (GNP) submitted the motion, holding Lim responsible for the conduct of a delegation of South Korean civic groups for "pro-DPRK activities" during its visit to Pyongyang for the 56th anniversary of Liberation Day from the Japanese colonial rule last month.

The ruling Millenium Democratic Party (MDP) steadfastly defended Lim but its ruling partner United Liberal Democrats (ULD) unexpectedly sided with the opposition.

The vote was held with the GNP holding 132 seats in the 271- member parliament, four short of a majority, the MDP with 114 seats, the ULD 20, the splinter opposition Democratic People's Party two and independents three.

The result of the vote means a virtual political breakup between the MDP and ULD although ULD leader Kim Jong-pil said ULD' s favor of dismissing Lim and the MDP-ULD coalition partnership are separate matters.

"The cooperation the two parties has virtually come to an end," said Park despite the dismissal is not legally binding as the president enjoys authority of appointing cabinet ministers.

Prime Minister Lee Han-dong and other four cabinet ministers are from the ULD.

"The situation has changed suddenly and we need time. But we can't leave state affairs in a vacuum," Park said.

The earthquake is a result of a long-time political struggle only between ruling MDP and opposition GNP which both are preparing for local and general elections slated to take place next year.

It is worth notice that almost all South Korean religious and civic organizations opposed the dismissal of the unification minister, a firm advocate of Kim's inter-Korean policy, during the struggle.

Without doubt, strong-willed Kim Dae-jung is to continue his reconciliation policy toward the Democratic People's Republic of Korea(DPRK) as it is seen the best way toward stability and peace on the Korean Peninsula no matter which party is in power dealing with the inter-Korean issue, said observers.

President Kim Dae-jung will never yield to any attempt to bring inter-Korean relations back to the past Cold War hostility but will keep on pursuing the policy of promoting reconciliation and cooperation with the DPRK consistently and with patience, the presidential spokesman said.

Actually, the political atmosphere in favor of the inter-Korean reconciliation has appeared as the DPRK Monday proposed early resumption of stalled inter-Korean talks, which came to deadlock due to tough attitude by Washington since George W. Bush became the U.S. president last January.

Unification Minister Lim told a press conference Monday morning that Seoul-Pyongyang talks will soon be resumed, calling for nonpartisan support for the reconciliation.

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President Kim Dae-jung is expected to reshuffle his cabinet, senior secretariat team and the ruling Millenium Democratic Party leadership within this week following a political earthquake in the country.

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