Illicit Election Victory Could Spark Uprising, South Korean Warns
Opposition leader Kim Dae Jung said Tuesday that a government party victory by illicit means in the Dec. 16 presidential election would precipitate an uprising.
Kim told a group of foreign correspondents that President Chun Doo Hwan and his hand-picked candidate, Roh Tae Woo, “don’t understand the disaster that is approaching.”
Asked if he meant that a “massive uprising” is inevitable if Roh wins, Kim replied, “If Roh Tae Woo continues the unfair campaigning he is doing now and is elected through an unfair election, he will not be able to avoid resistance from the people.”
In a separate press conference for Korean reporters, Kim said he sent a letter Tuesday to President Chun urging him to meet and work out ways to ensure a fair election. He said he had done this to give Chun and “the people in power a last chance to live in peace and safety after I am elected.”
Meanwhile, a U.S. diplomat said that the Reagan Administration is not likely to support any new government here that comes to power as a result of interference by the Korean military.
The diplomat, who asked not to be identified by name, said his government’s public support for democracy in South Korea “would make it awfully hard for us to swallow another 1980 without losing credibility.”
He was referring to the 1980 military coup that brought Chun, then an army major general, to power. Roh, who at the time was also a general, supported the coup, and the military-backed regime won U.S. support largely because Washington saw no other choice.
The diplomat said the U.S. government has already had “a general discussion of what we should do” if there is military intervention or if the election is otherwise marred.
The diplomat cited fears that if Chun and the ruling party conclude that Roh has no chance to win, the government might concoct an incident to justify calling it off.
“Very few people are going to buy that,” he said, “especially if they (government officials) cite a threat from North Korea.” He noted that about 40,000 U.S. troops are stationed here and that the U.S. military keeps a close watch on military movements in North Korea. He said the United States would refuse to support claims of an imminent threat from the North.
In 1980, the diplomat said, the United States “accepted a government that a lot of people didn’t like.” Asked if the U.S. government has done anything to dispel notions that Chun’s supporters might think Washington would do the same, he said, “Yes.”
He echoed Kim’s warning about an uprising if Roh should win by illicit means. He said that such a victory “would give Roh very low prospects for serving very long.”
As the diplomat spoke, Lee Woong Hee, the minister of culture and information, read a statement on television charging North Korea with “instigating anti-government struggles in the south under the camouflage of slogans advocating establishment of a democratic government in the presidential election.”
Kim also charged that “the entire government machinery is being mobilized” to elect Roh. He said that lavish gifts are being dispensed and the news media are being manipulated, and central government officials are being sent home “to campaign among friends and relatives.”
A poll published Tuesday by the Seoul newspaper Dong-A Ilbo suggested that many voters share Kim’s perceptions. Asked if TV reporting has been fair, 59.7% of the respondents said it had been either “unfair” or “very unfair.” Only 3.5% said it had been “very fair.”
One-third said their families or neighbors had received money or gifts, or had been offered free sightseeing trips, by a candidate’s campaign worker.