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
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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provided by the Korean Embassy