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President demands advanced politics as nation commemorates democratic uprising

All Headlines 14:34 April 19, 2010

By Shim Sun-ah and Lee Chi-dong

SEOUL, April 19 (Yonhap) -- President Lee Myung-bak called for an advanced politics that overrides regionalism and ideological disputes as the nation marked the 50th anniversary of a pro-democracy uprising that toppled an authoritarian regime.

In his speech at a ceremony commemorating the April 19 Revolution, Lee said South Korea's politics today is stricken by "narrow and abstract ideology," that neglects people's livelihoods and the grim reality facing the nation.

"We have to reflect on ourselves again, whether we are relying on regionalism that spawns conflicts and street politics," the president said at the ceremony held at the April 19 National Cemetery in northern Seoul.

Some 2,000 government officials, politicians and citizens attended the ceremony honoring the democratic movement, initiated by university students after the country's first President, Syngman Rhee, revised the Constitution and rigged the election to extend his term of office. The uprising ended Rhee's regime after 12 years in power.

The nationwide street demonstration was touched off by the discovery of a student at a harbor in Masan, South Gyeongsang Province who was killed by a tear gas shell during demonstrations against the rigged elections of March 1960. Hundreds of demonstrators were killed in the clash with the police, including 199 of them who are buried in the April 19 Cemetery.

Lee said the government and political parties should not resort to populism in competing in the June 2 local elections, viewed as a mid-term election for his administration whose five-year tenure ends in early 2013.

"Moderate, pragmatic politics for reconciliation and integrity should take the center path, rather than opposition for the sake of opposition," he said.

Lee also reiterated his resolve to root out corruption among public officials, saying it is another urgent task.

Photo exhibitions, marathon races and speech contests were held across the country for Monday's anniversary, with families of deceased activists and civic groups holding a separate ceremony on Sunday.

The government decorated 272 citizens, including 62 dead, for their role in the democratic movement.

lcd@yna.co.kr

sshim@yna.co.kr
(END)

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