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Hecklers give ’em hell

By John Larkin, Sydney Morning Herald, 13 April 2000

Seoul: South Korea’s politicians are getting a taste of people power ahead of today’s general election.

Kim Choong-eui, an MP in the opposition Grand National Party (GNP), has had to joust with activists who turn up at his rallies to heckle and persuade people to vote against him.

In the past week the activists have intensified their campaign against candidates who have refused to pull out of the race after being publicly blacklisted earlier this year.

Hit squads infiltrate campaign rallies, waving flags and handing out flyers detailing their allegations. Mr Kim is accused of siding with riot police who allegedly raped a girl after a street protest.

President Kim Dae-jung’s two-year-old government is fighting for a majority that will boost his mandate to further reform the economy and conduct a breakthrough summit with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, in June.

But his Millennium Democratic Party (MDP) is up against it. Polls conducted before a two-week publicity blackout showed the GNP with 122 seats, the MDP with 98, and its former coalition partner the United Liberal Democrats 50 in the 273-seat National Assembly.