South Korea. According to
Countryaah, South Korea's economy was in bad shape
during the year. The prohibited labor movement KCTU's
protests against the regime's new labor law laws continued
into 1997 with hundreds of thousands of workers on strike.
Car factories, shipyards and hospitals were crippled by the
battle for widened employers' right to dismiss or relocate
labor. Only after the government and opposition agreed to
discuss changes in labor law did the protests ebb out.
Instead, the scandal surrounding the steel and
construction giant Hanbo was noticed. When Hanbo went
bankrupt in January with debts of close to $ 6 billion, a
corruption gang with tracks was also discovered right in the
center of power. Founder Chung Tae Soo admitted that the
group had given gifts to Politician. He was prosecuted for
bribery along with nine others, including several bank
executives and MPs.
The Hanbo affair forced a public apology from President
Kim Yong Sam, whose advisers figured in the scandal. Kim
admitted that his election campaign in 1992 had been
expensive, but he refused to state where the money came
from. President's son Kim Hyun Chul was singled out as a key
figure in this, but was released. In June, Chung Tae Soo was
sentenced to 15 years in prison. embezzlement and bribery.
His co-defendants were jailed for 3-7 years.
But the scandal rolled on. Kim Hyun Chul, incarcerated
for tax fraud and scam with campaign funds, was sentenced in
October to three years in prison - one for the president and
his ruling party NKP (New Korea Party) onerous verdict.
In the December 18 presidential election, where Kim was
not allowed to run for re-election, the NKP (renamed the
Grand National Party) was running for former Prime Minister
Lee Hoi Chang. The main opposition parties, the liberal NCNP
and the conservative ULD, stood with the NCNP leader and
former dissident Kim Dae Jung. After an even election
campaign, Kim Dae Jung was the winner; formally he takes up
his post in February 1998. The outgoing and incoming head of
state agreed to pardon the ex-presidents Chun Doo Hwan and
Roh Tae Woo, jailed for treason and corruption. Chun and Roh
were released December 22.
In the fall, East Asia's economic problems hit South
Korea hard. Currency and share prices collapsed, growth
slowed and several large companies failed. Finance Minister
Kang Kyung Shik was dismissed. The government was forced to
swallow its pride and try to save the economy. through
crisis loans of nearly $ 60 billion under tough conditions
from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Tensions with North Korea persisted, though formal peace
talks finally started in Geneva on December 9. Shortly
before, six people, including a reputable professor, had
been arrested for espionage on behalf of North Korea.