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Roh ringing in the changes

From Rebecca MacKinnon, CNN Correspondent

Roh is popular with South Korea's young generations.
Roh is popular with South Korea's young generations.

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SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) -- Fifty-six year-old Roh Moo-hyun is from the same political party as 77 year-old outgoing president Kim Dae-jung.

Still, 20 years younger than Kim, Roh's presidency marks a major generational change in South Korean politics.

The 1980s were a turbulent time in South Korea -- young people struggled, often violently, against an oppressive government with no tolerance for dissent, and a government allied with Washington.

Those fresh-faced young students are now in their late thirties and forties -- sophisticated professionals who enjoy their lattes, cappucinos, and hard-won democracy.

Thirty-eight year-old Lee Eun-hi spent three months in jail in 1987 for staging a photo exhibit about North Korean women which was illegal then. Now she works for South Korea's new president.

"Our generation directly experienced the way that social changes can be brought about through the power and participation of ordinary people," Lee told CNN.

A human rights lawyer who defended jailed students, Roh Moo-hyun owes his close election victory to the protest generation.

Internet-inspired young people canceled their ski trip to vote that day.

Stamp collections commemorate Roh's inauguration.
Stamp collections commemorate Roh's inauguration.

"President-elect Roh said he would reform the big monopoly corporations and create a more equal relationship between South Korea and the United States," Oh Yeon-ho of OhmyNews.com told CNN.

"That's why young people support him."

Many of the people who voted for Roh also demonstrated at candlelight vigils, protesting the acquittal of two U.S. servicemen involved in a road accident that killed two South Korean teenagers last summer.

Most insist they're not anti-American, but do think Washington doesn't respect them enough.

"Our generation generally doesn't like the American way of handling the recent standoff over North Korea's suspected nuclear weapons. Its best for our people if they hold talks, rather than just create tensions," Oh says.

Now, as Roh steps up to take the reins of power, the people who helped get him there are hoping he'll be loyal to their views.


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