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Opposition gains control in S. Korea

Lee, pictured here with his wife Han In-ok leads opinion polls for December's presidential elections
Lee, pictured here with his wife Han In-ok leads opinion polls for December's presidential elections  

SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) -- South Korea's main opposition party has seized control of the National Assembly after winning a landslide victory in parliamentary by-elections.

Candidates of the Grand National Party (GNP) won 11 of 13 seats, a result considered a major defeat for President Kim Dae-jung in his final months of office as well as a litmus test for upcoming presidential elections.

The GNP now has a majority of 139 seats in the 273-member National Assembly.

Late Thursday, the ruling Millennium Democratic Party accepted defeat in the poll.

"We would like to accept the outcome of the by-elections as the expression of public sentiment," party spokesman Lee Nak-yon said.

The Millennium Democratic Party has been plagued by series of corruption scandals involving government officials and two of Kim's children and only managed to win two seats in the country's south-west.

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Kim, whose popularity has plummeted recently due to the scandals, was also attacked by the GNP over his rapprochement policy with North Korea.

The by-elections are being viewed as a guide to December's presidential elections as well as a verdict on Kim's rule.

It also casts doubt over the future of Kim's "Sunshine Policy" of engaging the North.

The leader of that GNP, Lee Hoi-chang, is running in the end of year elections and advocates a much tougher line towards North Korea.

Lee narrowly lost the 1997 election to President Kim and currently leads pro-government candidate Roh Moo-hyun in opinion polls.

South and North Korea are set to resume cabinet-level talks next week which have been stalled since November. (Full story)




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