The country's opposition-dominated parliament voted 193 to 2 on Friday to strip the president of his position after a last ditch attempt by Roh to avert the vote by issuing a public apology failed.

"I hereby declare that the motion to impeach President Roh Moo-Hyun has been approved," Speaker Park Kwan-Yong announced.

But chaos erupted inside the parliament as Roh supporters and opposition members hurled punches and threw their shoes at each other.

President suspended

Roh, 57, was immediatley suspended from office and Prime Minister Goh Kun took over as interim president.

The Constitutional Court must rule within six months on whether to uphold the impeachment.

Earlier, the opposition dismissed Roh's public apology for the country's unprecedented political crisis.

"I deeply apologise to the people for the country being led into this impeachment crisis," Roh said in a statement ready by chief spokesman Lee Byung-wan on television.

"As the head of the state, I feel responsibility," he said.

But the apology failed to placate the opposition, which insisted the impeachment vote against the president would go ahead.

Fights broke out in parliament
after the vote

Party officials told journalists on Thursday they had enough support from their own members of parliament to force a ballot and pass the bill.

However, the parliament speaker had adjourned the impeachment session of parliament until Friday after some pro-Roh members of parliament prevented opposition politicians from approaching the speaker's desk in the National Assembly. 

Impeachment reasons

A still-nascent recovery in Asia's fourth-largest economy and an investigation into illicit funds given to political parties by conglomerates known as "chaebol" have also cost the president dear.
   
The opposition said Roh had made a vote to unseat him inevitable. 
   
Roh, a feisty former labour lawyer known for his outspoken and off-the-cuff comments, had earlier expressed regret over the funding scandal but said aides of his who had been arrested had not embezzled money.
   
Crucially, Roh declined to apologise for supportive remarks he made about the Uri Party that backs him. The opposition wanted an apology to stop them voting on impeachment.

Roh said he was heartbroken a businessman had apparently killed himself after the president mentioned his name in a briefing on Thursday at which he had refused to apologise for illegal electioneering.

One man set himself on fire on Thursday. Another man was detained on Friday after driving his car on to the steps of parliament and setting the vehicle on fire.