S. Korea Reform Panel Set Up by Roh Assails Chun Rule

Times Staff Writer

A reform panel set up by President-elect Roh Tae Woo criticized outgoing leader Chun Doo Hwan's authoritarian rule Tuesday and recommended that Roh issue a declaration guaranteeing human rights.

The opposition's two major leaders, meanwhile, pledged to renew an effort to reunite their disarrayed forces before a National Assembly election is held in April.

Recommendations by Roh's 56-member Council on Democratization and National Reconciliation, amounted to a compendium of abuses under Chun, who will turn over power to Roh on Thursday.

The panel's most direct criticism of Chun came when it declared that protests in Kwangju against Chun's 1980 coup did not constitute "an insurrection by rebels" but was rather "part of a nationwide democratization movement."

Contradicted Chun's Claims

The statement contradicted Chun's assertions that the protests against his coup were a "rebellion" instigated by opposition leader Kim Dae Jung, a native of the southwestern Cholla region in which Kwangju is located.

The council, which was established by Roh last month to develop proposals for implementing his campaign promise to bring democratic reforms to South Korea, put the blame on Army paratroopers.

"Martial-law troops overreacted in suppressing demonstrations, causing a widespread protest by Kwangju citizens," the report said, adding that the government should apologize to families of victims and the citizens of Kwangju.

Noting claims that the number of fatalities so far exceeded the 194 dead announced by Chun's government, the panel recommended that in order "to eradicate mistrust," a new survey of Kwangju citizens be carried out to determine the accurate number of casualties.

Did Not Urge Prosecutions

The panel stopped short, however, of urging that those responsible for the carnage be prosecuted.

Roh, who as a fellow general at the time supported Chun's coup, assured the group that he will instruct his Cabinet at its first meeting Friday to draw up orders to implement the recommendations in its 192-page report.

The council said Roh's "human rights manifesto" should include an assurance that prosecutors and the courts will be free of political interference and a pledge to abolish "illegal investigative detention rooms," which have been used to torture suspects.

The Agency for National Security Planning, Chun's euphemism for the Korean CIA, must be stripped of its power to carry out anti-communist investigations, which should be turned over to prosecutors, the panel said, and military security agencies must be banned from all investigations of civilians.

The council also blasted Chun's 1980 purge of civil servants, journalists, businessmen and labor leaders. Declaring that the purge was carried out "unfairly," the report urged a review of each purge victim's case.

Surprise Meeting

In another development, Kim Young Sam returned to Seoul from a mountain retreat to which he had gone into seclusion after resigning Feb. 8 as president of the Reunification Democratic Party. Kim returned for a surprise meeting with his opposition rival, Kim Dae Jung, head of the Party for Peace and Democracy. The two men emerged from more than two hours of private talks to announce that negotiations will be reopened to unify the two major opposition groups before a legislative election is held in April.

It was the first time the two leaders had met since both decided to run for president last October and wound up splitting 55% of the votes to hand victory to Roh, who won a plurality of 37% in a Dec. 16 election. Their split had been widely seen as likely to lead to another opposition defeat in the crucial National Assembly election.

Kim Young Sam broke the impasse by accepting Kim Dae Jung's demand that the opposition press Roh's ruling Democratic Justice Party to enact a law providing for single-seat constituencies in the new Assembly. Kim Dae Jung insisted on the single-seat issue as a precondition for a party merger.

Kim Young Sam's Reunification Democratic Party had been calling for multi-seat districts, since many of the party's politicians felt they could get elected from such districts even without winning the most votes--by finishing second, third or fourth in individual races.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World