South Korean opposition leader Kim Dae Jung headed home to South Korea today after two years of exile in America, declaring it is time for the Korean government to restore the political rights it stripped him of five years ago.
Kim, 59, was seen off from Washington's National Airport by a group of about 200 Korean-Americans, who waved Korean flags and kept up a rhythmic chant of "Kim Dae Jung, Kim Dae Jung."
He was accompanied on the two-day flight to Seoul by a 37-member delegation that included a number of prominent Americans, among them Rep. Edward F. Feighan (D-Ohio) and Rep. Thomas M. Foglietta (D-Pa.), a former assistant secretary of state for human rights, a retired admiral and a number of business executives.
They hoped to prevent any harm from coming to Kim as it did to Philippine opposition leader Benigno S. Aquino Jr., assassinated on his return to Manila from American exile in 1983.
Kim told reporters that the Korean government may try to place him under house arrest, but said that if officials do, "there will be protests" by his followers. He said he expects about 50,000 of his backers to greet him at Seoul's Kimpo Airport when he arrives Friday.
Kim said the government of President Chun Doo Hwan took away his political rights when it tried him on charges of sedition in 1980 and sentenced him to death. Since that time, he has not had the right to speak out or engage in normal public life in Korea, he said, and "five years from my people is long enough."