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Former Gen. Roh Tae-woo was sworn in as president...

By SPENCER SHERMAN

SEOUL, South Korea -- Former Gen. Roh Tae-woo was sworn in as president Thursday in South Korea's first peaceful change of government, promising an era of 'mature democracy where human rights are inviolable.'

Roh, 55, succeeded outgoing President Chun Doo Hwan at an inaugural ceremony at 10 a.m. in front of the National Assembly building in southern Seoul.

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Taking the oath of office for a five-year term before a crowd of 25,000, including 250 foreign dignitaries, Roh said, 'I do solemnly swear before the people that I will faithfully execute the duties of the president.'

The swearing-in of Roh, a former military academy classmate of Chun's, was followed by a 21-gun salute and the release of 1,000 doves were released.

Roh stressed in his inaugural speech, as he did during his campaign for office, that he will push democratic reforms and national reconciliation.

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'An era of ordinary people has arrived,' Roh said. 'From now on, everyone, not just a single person, will have a say in what is good for the country.

'We are now lined up on the starting line of democracy. The day when freedoms and human rights could be slighted in the name of economic growth and national security has ended. The day when repressive force and torture in secret chambers were tolerated is over,' he said.

'We will have an era of mature democracy where human rights are inviolable and freedom with responsibility prevails so that both economic development and national security are assured,' he said.

Roh's inauguration, marking the first peaceful change of government in South Korea's history, came amid lingering dissident protests against his election.

On Wednesday five radical students brandishing knives and presumed explosives seized a U.S. Embassy building in Seoul for two hours to protest Roh's inauguration while thousands of dissidents staged protests in Seoul and eight provincial cities.

In his address, Roh said, 'The time has come to put an end to excessive internal squabbling' and urged that regional antagonism, partisan egoism and personal resentment must be buried in the interest of national harmony.

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'If all of us yield a little in the spirit of reconciliation and forgive each other and bury the residue of hatred, our children will be able to enjoy the abundant fruit of democracy and welfare,' he said.

Roh paid a courtesy call on Chun at the Blue House, the presidential residence, before the inauguration and the two traveled to the ceremony in the same car.

Afterward, the outgoing and incoming first families returned to the Blue House. Then Chun left for his private home in western Seoul, turning over the presidential palace to Roh and his family.

After seeing off Chun, Roh handed letters of appointment to members of a new Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Lee Hyun-jae.

Visiting foreign dignitaries included Japanese Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita and U.S. Treasury Secretary James Baker. Both will meet Roh and Chun before returning home.

Roh, head of the ruling Democratic Justice Party, beat leading opposition candidates, Kim Dae Jung and Kim Young-sam, in a direct presidential election Dec. 16.

A new constitution providing greater freedoms and human rights took effect at midnight Wednesday, when Roh's tenure officially began and he became head of the 'Sixth Republic' of Korea.

As his last official function, Chun, 57, who took power through a coup, attended a farewell dinner Wednesday night and in an emotion-charged speech said it was time for him to go.

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'There is a time for a man to serve his country and a time for him to leave the scene,' said the former general, who had promised to open a new era of civilian rule and end a cycle of coups and civil uprisings that have plagued South Korean politics.

Earlier Wednesday, the students who seized the U.S. Embassy building briefly held 30 to 40 people hostage, releasing them before riot police stormed the building at the request of U.S. officials.

The students staging the takeover of the U.S. Information Service building said they were from the Youth-Student Death Squad for National Salvation and carried what looked like plastic explosives.

Two or three explosions were heard during the siege, which lasted about one hour. U.S. officials later said the explosions were probably large firecrackers or small homemade explosives.

Hours later, a violent protest erupted in the city center when 2,000 dissidents and students, chanting 'stop Roh Tae-woo, the killer, from coming to power' clashed with riot police, hurling rocks and firebombs in the main downtown shopping district.

Helmeted police responded with volleys of tear-gas grenades.

About 3,000 other anti-government dissidents staged protests in eight cities, many clashing with riot police, news reports said.

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The 120,000-strong national police force was placed on full alert until Friday for planned anti-government protests by students and the powerful dissident National Coalition for Democracy.

Chun's resignation marks the first time since South Korea's formation in 1948 that a president has relinquished power voluntarily in a peaceful transition devoid of an assassination or coup. The nation has been ruled by a succession of military leaders.

Roh, also a former general, was instrumental in backing Chun's initial move for power in 1979 after the assassination of President Park Chung-hee.

Roh was elected Dec. 16 in the first popular election since 1971, beating a divided opposition that split the majority of votes cast for opposition leaders Kim Dae Jung and Kim Young-sam.

Chun initially tapped Roh to replace him through a rubber-stamp electoral college system, but massive nationwide protests erupted June 10 after his nomination and Chun was forced three weeks later to call for a direct contest for the next president.

Roh, who persuaded Chun to agree to the direct election, said he would end South Korea's history of authoritarian rule and promote democratic reforms, including protection of human rights, a free press and an end to military influence in politics.

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The nation's first president, Syngman Rhee, was toppled by a student uprising in 1960. A short-lived civilian government was toppled in a military coup led by Park, another general. Chun became the most powerful military leader in the nation after Park's assassination and was elected president in 1980 by a rubber-stamp electoral college.

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