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The Sixth Korean Republic

The Sixth Republic began with the inauguration of Roh Tae Woo as president for the 13th presidential term and the simultaneous implementation of the revised Constitution. These events had been preceded by the June 29, 1987 Declaration of Political Reforms in which Roh acceded to all of the opposition's demands, thereby defusing the political crisis and providing for the first direct election of the president in 16 years. The Sixth Republic, unlike the Fifth, thus began on a positive note with the most serious political issues being resolved.

President Roh began his term of office promising that authoritarian rule would end and that the June 29 Declaration would continue to be faithfully implemented. Many steps were taken to change not only the appearance of the government but the substance as well. These ranged from the repeal or revision of non-democratic laws after the entire legal code had been reviewed, to the use of a round table at presidential meetings to improve interaction with his ministers. A number of people who had been detained on political charges were released and had their civil rights restored. Institutional and non-institutional interference in press activities and labor-management affairs was discontinued.

The elections for the 13th National Assembly held on April 26, 1988, ended with surprising results. Not only was the ruling Democratic Justice Party unable to win a working majority in the Assembly, but Kim Dae-jung's Party for Peace and Democracy became the largest opposition party, with Kim Young Sam's Reunification Democratic Party and Kim Jong-pil's New Democratic Republican Party placing third and fourth respectively. In their first test of strength in the Assembly after the elections, the strengthened opposition rejected President Roh's first appointee for chief justice, although they later accepted his second choice.

The Assembly's first major work was the establishment of special committees to look into various aspects of the Fifth Republic, including irregularities of the government, the Kwangju pro-democracy movement of 1980, claims of election fraud, controversial laws, and the problem of regionalism.

The political environment was shaken in January of 1990 when the ruling DJP, in an effort to overcome its mere plurality status in the Assembly, managed to bring in Kim Young Sam's RDP and Kim Jong-pil's NDRP. The three parties were merged into the Democratic Liberal Party (DLP), which now commanded a two-thirds majority in the legislative body.

The DLP won a landslide victory in local council elections on March 26 and June 20, 1991. In the 14th National Assembly elections held on March 24, 1992, however, the ruling DLP fared much worse, failing to maintain its majority by a single seat. This setback was only temporary as the DLP managed to recruit several independent lawmakers to its flag, thereby regaining its simple legislative majority.

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Information provided by the Korean Embassy


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