President Roh Tae-woo fired his defense minister and the powerful chief of military intelligence Monday, blaming them in a scandal involving charges the government spied on more than 1,300 civilians.
Opposition leader Kim Dae-jung - one alleged target of the espionage - joined student protesters in calling for the intelligence unit's dissolution.Dissidents said the scandal proves the "undemocratic nature" of Roh's government.
Charges in the past week of military surveillance of civilians, including leading politicians, have eroded government claims that the military is politically neutral and no longer a figure in politics.
Presidential spokesman Lee Soo-jung said Roh was holding the two fired officials responsible in the scandal. He said the government would enact reforms "to meet with circumstances befitting the new era" - but did not elaborate.
Roh moved quickly in an effort to diminish the impact of the scandal. It threatened to seriously jolt his government just as opposition politicians have boycotted the National Assembly demanding broader democratic reforms.
In August, all 78 opposition members of parliament resigned en masse, accusing Roh of railroading bills and ignoring demands for reforms.
Defense Minister Lee Sang-hoon was being replaced immediately by former Army Chief of Staff Lee Jong-koo, 57. Lt. Gen. Koo Chang-hoe is new commander of the Defense Security Command, the military intelligence unit, replacing Lt. Gen. Cho Nam-pung, the president's office said.