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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Seoul's Kim Apologizes To Nation, Bans Son

SEOUL, South Korea -- In a dramatic gesture of contrition to try to salvage his presidency, South Korea's Kim Young-sam apologized Tuesday for a loans scandal and banished a controversial son from public life.


Appearing chastened and solemn in a televised address on the fourth anniversary of his inauguration, Kim said he was in "agony and sorrow" over the scandal involving dubious loans to the failed Hanbo Steel Co.


He said he was ashamed that his own son had become embroiled in the affair.


Three of Kim's closest aides have been arrested in the scandal that has rocked the nation.


"I, as the president, offer a sincere apology to the people over this incident," said white-haired Kim, eyes downcast as he read from a prepared text in the 18-minute address.


Prosecutors said banks pressured by politicians offered huge loans in return for kickbacks from Hanbo, which racked up $5.8 billion in debts before going under on Jan. 23.


Ruling New Korea Party chairman Lee Hong-koo and other party elders tendered their resignations. Cabinet ministers are expected to offer to step down shortly en masse to give Kim free rein to reshuffle his administration.


Kim, a former dissident who battled previous military rulers, took power vowing a clean society -- but his government is now lurching from one corruption scandal to another.


Kim was a model of penitence, following in a long Korean tradition. According to custom, he kept his gaze low, his voice hushed and his manner grave.


The spectacle of a once-popular president begging forgiveness drew some public sympathy, but little forgiveness.


"His speech was sincere, but it can't make up for his four years of failures," said Oh Kil-hwan, 45.


The main opposition National Congress for New Politics, which has claimed a cover-up in a prosecution inquiry, was also dissatisfied. It demanded an independent probe.


Prosecutors questioned Kim's second son, Hyun-chul, 38, last weekend about the scandal but cleared him of wrongdoing.


Nevertheless, Kim said he would bar his son from social activities until the end of his five-year term next February. Hyun-chul later said he would resign from all posts.Hours after the apology, students demanding Kim's resignation clashed with riot police in the first campus violence since a crackdown last year on student activism.


Police fired volleys of teargas at about 700 students hurling rocks and shouting, "Down with the Kim Young-sam regime" at Seoul's Hanyang University, witnesses said. At least five students were detained.


"Whatever the reasons, all these are the consequence of my lack of virtue. It is the responsibility of myself, the president," Kim said.


Kim's humility was in striking contrast to his combative appearance on television a month ago when his attacks on the opposition turned into a public relations disaster.


He also apologized over a labor law rammed through parliament last December in a way that recalled the tactics of his military predecessors and sparked a month of strikes.