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A long hot Korean summer

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak's hard line conservatism is fueling tension with the North.

Protestors call for the arrest of former president Roh Moo-hyun on corruption charges. A few weeks later, Roh committed suicide, one of several events contributing to a tense summer on the Korean Peninsula. (Photo by Lee Jae-Won/Reuters)

 [Editor's Note: This article was originally published in GlobalPost Passport. To read the full story, join Passport.]

The night before the 2007 presidential election, Chung Mong-joon, a billionaire son of the late Hyundai founder Chang Ju-yang, stood on stage and urged a crowd in downtown Seoul to vote for Lee Myung-bak.

As Mr. Chung walked away from the election rally that cold December night, he explained why he was aligning himself with the country's right wing. Five years earlier he had supported the successful presidential aspirations of a left wing candidate, Roh Moo-hyun. "Mr. Roh divided the country" during his presidency, said Mr. Chung. "Lee Myung-bak will unite it."

Mr. Lee won. Sadly, for the country's 49 million people, Mr. Lee has not been a president for all. 

Political divisions in South Korea have widened. The country's passionate civil activists and investigative journalists believe their democratic rights are under threat. Police buses full of young officers are conspicuous. Supporters of Roh Moo-hyun, who had set up a shrine in the days following the former president's suicide in May, were hemmed in by a ring of police buses that circled the main arteries around Seoul's City Hall, a traditional gathering place for protesters.  

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/south-korea/090701/long-hot-summer-the-korean-peninsula