South Korea. In 2007, it was a crisis year for South Korea's
government party Uri and President Roh Moo Hyun. A rapidly
declining support for public opinion in February caused 25
Urile members of the National Assembly to break out to form
their own party ahead of the important presidential election
in December of that year. In May, 20 of those dropped out
announced that they formed the New Party for Liberal Reform
and Alliance. Another party, the United New Democratic Party
(UNDP), was formed in August. The power outages continued,
and Uri went from the largest party in the National Assembly
to third, after the Conservative opposition party Great
National Party (GNP) and UNDP. Shortly thereafter, Uri
disbanded and the majority of its MPs went to UNDP.
In March, Prime Minister Han Myung Sook quit his job to
try to be elected Uri's presidential candidate. She had been
sitting on the post for ten months. Han Myung Sook was
replaced by Han Duck Soo, advisor to the president on trade
Then things went better for the country's government in
terms of relations with North Korea. At the beginning of the
year, conversations at ministerial level were resumed. These
had been interrupted in 2006 when North Korea conducted a
missile test and an underground nuclear bomb. Promises from
North Korea to scrap its nuclear weapons program and shut
down the Yongbyon nuclear power plant led to the resumption.
In May, joint tests were conducted on the safety of the
newly renovated railway lines running through the
demilitarized zone separating the countries.
When the IAEA Atomic Energy Agency was able to establish
during the summer that North Korea had indeed closed
Yongbyon, South Korea and North Korea decided to hold the
second summit of the country's top leaders (the first was
held in 2000).
CountryAAH, the meeting between President Roh and North Korea's
leader Kim Jong Il was held in October. This led to a
declaration in eight points, of which perhaps the most
important was that the two countries would now work actively
to replace the 1953 ceasefire with permanent peace. A
follow-up meeting in November between the countries' heads
of government meant that goods could start to be transported
by train across the "border" in December.
In July, the country was shaken when 23 South Korean
relief workers and Christian missionaries were kidnapped by
Taliban in Afghanistan. Two hostages were killed when the
kidnappers' demands for the release of imprisoned Taliban
were not heeded. Only since the South Korean government in
August promised to withdraw its force in Afghanistan and
impose a ban on missionary activity in the country were all
released from hostage. The kidnappers had then abandoned the
demands to have prisoners released. The fact that the South
Korean squad of 200 (non-combatant) men would be taken home
at the end of the year was already determined.
In November, President Roh decided that the country's
troops in Iraq of 1,200 men would remain for another year,
until the end of 2008, but that it should be reduced to 650
men. Earlier, Roh had announced that the force would be
taken home at the end of 2007, but the United States had
expressed its strong desire to have the South Korean partner
Economically, an important free trade agreement was
signed between the US and South Korea in April. While the
United States would gradually release the high import duty
on meat for 15 years, South Korea was granted expanded
export opportunities for a variety of goods, including cars.
Import duties and other support for the country's rice
farmers were not covered by the FTA.
In the December 19 presidential election, Lee Myung Bak
was nominated for GNP. He had previously been mayor of
Seoul. Lee was a clear favorite throughout the election
campaign, even though allegations of stock market fraud were
directed at him by competitors. As a formerly successful
businessman, he chose to focus on the popular
dissatisfaction with President Roh's economic policies. Lee
won big with 49 percent of the vote against 26 percent of
the main competitor, UNDP candidate Chung Dong Young.