Riot police stormed two campuses in Seoul on Friday and battled hundreds of club-wielding students demanding the resignation of President Chun Doo Hwan.
The police fanned out across the Korea University campus, firing tear gas to disperse about 500 demonstrators who retaliated with firebombs and stones. There were no immediate reports of arrests there. But several demonstrators were detained at the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies where there were similar clashes.
The students were demonstrating in support of an opposition campaign for direct presidential elections to replace the present electoral college system.
That issue threatened to bring a partisan deadlock as the National Assembly opened a 20-day special session Friday.
Speaker Lee Chai Hyung, in an opening speech, called for "dialogue and proper parliamentary function" to solve political problems. Party leaders will deliver their keynote speeches Monday.
Year's First Session
It was the first session of the year for the 276-member unicameral legislature. The last session in December brought confrontation and clashes that included violence between government and opposition lawmakers.
The ruling Democratic Justice Party and the opposition New Korea Democratic Party refused to negotiate until early last week, when they agreed to convene a special session to discuss deadlocked issues.
The opposition, backed by dissident and civil rights organizations, calls for rewriting the constitution by the end of the year to replace the present electoral college system with a direct popular vote for president.
Foes of President Chun charge that the present system, written under Chun in 1980 when he came to power with military backing, favors the ruling regime. The Chun government has said such changes should not be taken up until after 1988, when Chun's single seven-year term ends.
Chun has proposed a moratorium on debate on constitutional changes, saying that the next three years are a particularly dangerous and crucial period for South Korea, with North Korea bent on disrupting the 1988 Olympic Games to be held in Seoul.