Leader Offers Fresh Start as Korea Protests Snowball

Biggest protests in 20 years push Lee Myung-bak's presidency to the brink
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 11, 2008 9:29 AM CDT
South Korean protesters hold candles at an anti-government rally against U.S. imported beef in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, June 10, 2008. South Korea's entire Cabinet offered to resign Tuesday as President...   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – South Korea's president is battling for his political life as swelling protests continue to rock the country, the New York Times reports. At least 100,000 people joined a massive anti-government rally in Seoul yesterday as Lee Myung-bak—himself a former participant in a pro-democracy student movement—pledged "a new beginning," just 4 months after taking office. He has asked his main political rival to become prime minister, reports Reuters.

The protests, sparked by opposition to allowing US beef imports despite widespread fears of mad cow disease, are the biggest South Korea has seen in 20 years. The rapid reverse in Lee's fortunes is attributed to popular disenchantment with his "bulldozer" style in attempting to push through new trade and regulatory policies, and to high-speed communications in the world's most wired country helping protests form rapidly.