S. Korea Candidates Open TV Campaigns
Roh Tae Woo, the ruling Democratic Justice Party’s candidate for president, admitted Wednesday that his party had committed acts that have been “denounced by the public,” but he urged voters to support him as the only leader capable of ensuring stability in South Korea.
At the same time, opposition candidate Kim Dae Jung appealed to people who have “suffered under military dictatorship” to support him and “achieve their dream to live like human beings.”
Kim, the candidate of the Party for Peace and Democracy, also promised stability but said that military-backed rulers such as President Chun Doo Hwan have brought only forced stability, which he described as “a brief silence, not real stabilization.” Without progress, he said, there can be no stability.
New Role for Television
The two candidates spoke on television; for the first time, televised speeches by the candidates are expected to play a major role in a presidential election.
Television was used 16 years ago in the last direct presidential election, but then there were only 600,000 TV sets in this country. Today there are 9 million sets, virtually one for every household. About 15 million people, according to political analysts, watched Roh and Kim on television Wednesday.
Their speeches were the first of five that each candidate will make on television in the period ending Dec. 12, four days before the election. The speeches are expected to have an important influence on uncommitted voters, who are believed to account for 30% of the 25.8 million South Koreans eligible to vote.
In his remarks Wednesday, Roh said: “To be honest, all that has happened in the past seven years is not praiseworthy. Mistakes have been made.”
Among the mistakes, he said, were the police torture-murder of a student last January, financial scandals, a sharp decline in beef prices “and other developments denounced by the public.”
Roh made no reference to the December, 1979, uprising in which he participated, which gave Chun control of the army, or to the May, 1980, coup in which Chun seized political power with Roh’s help. Both were major generals in the army at the time.
Instead, he chose to emphasize the need for stability. An electoral victory by any opposition candidate, he said, will divide the country and bring chaos.
“Our country may become another Philippines or another Vietnam,” Roh said. “Facing a threat from North Korea, we have no leeway for trial and error.”
He condemned Kim Young Sam, one of the two principal opposition leaders, for saying in a recent campaign speech that “there is no possibility of an invasion” by North Korea, and he assailed Kim Dae Jung for being supported by “militant radicals . . . advocating violent revolution.”
“How will they be able to stage the (1988) Seoul Olympics successfully?” he asked.
Roh recalled his June 29 promise of sweeping democratic reforms, which he made after violent demonstrations had swept the country and said that his action had made “democratization . . . the broad current of our time.”
Stability, Economic Growth
“The only remaining question,” he said, “is whether we can avoid chaos and sustain economic development under stability.”
In his speech, Kim Dae Jung, who has been in jail or under house arrest for most of the last 15 years, focused on the oppression, including a death sentence, that he has suffered under Chun and the late President Park Chung Hee.
Referring to the June demonstrations that forced the government to promise reforms and a direct presidential election, Kim said: “For the first time in our 5,000 years of history, we have proven that we the people, not the ones with rifles and bayonets, are the masters of this nation.”