S. Korea’s Roh Willing to Visit North for Talks

Times Staff Writer

Basking in a glow of confidence after the Olympic Games, President Roh Tae Woo said today that he is willing to visit Pyongyang for the first meeting of a South Korean president with President Kim Il Sung of Communist North Korea.

Roh, outlining his goals in a televised address to the National Assembly, also:

-- Lifted a ban on South Korean students’ efforts to meet with North Korean students. Roh said he will approve “any form of exchange” and “study ways to enable faculty and students themselves to work out exchange programs.”

-- Said that South Korea is willing to take part in the economic development of Soviet Siberia and that he hopes to establish shipping and air routes between South Korea and Communist countries.


-- Came as close as he has to an open break with his predecessor, Chun Doo Hwan, who designated Roh as his candidate for president. The most controversial of Roh’s domestic political problems is how to deal with reported scandals and wrongdoings of the Chun period, and Roh described the past as a “long, dark and dreadful night” that has now ended. He pledged to cooperate with National Assembly investigations “into past corruption and abuse of power.”

Vows to Build Democracy

“I will keep my promise,” he said, “to build a new democratic nation.”

Roh’s announcement of his willingness to go to Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, came in response to a Sept. 8 proposal by President Kim and in fulfillment of his own July 7 promise to meet the man who started the 1950-53 Korean War “at any place, at any time, to discuss any and all issues.”


“I make it clear,” Roh said today, “that I am willing to visit Pyongyang to meet with (Kim), if the north is agreeable.”

Roh said he is willing to discuss a “declaration of nonaggression and the unification of our homeland,” which Kim had specified as prerequisites for any meeting of the two leaders whose countries have been divided since the end of World War II in 1945.

42,000 U.S. Servicemen

But Roh said nothing about the removal of 42,000 U.S. servicemen stationed in South Korea. The north’s Kim Il Sung apparently sees this as another prerequisite.

After 43 years of “mutual antagonism and confrontation, the mere fact of the two leaders . . . actually meeting together . . . would start a process of national reconciliation leading to unification,” Roh said.

He said he will soon unveil a new formula for unification and that it will include proposals from the north. In addition, he said he will seek opinions from the National Assembly and from the South Korean people.

Roh cited an agreement with Hungary, announced Sept. 13 for the establishment of permanent diplomatic missions, and called it “a historic point of departure.” He said he will seek to open additional doors to socialist countries that took part in the Olympic Games, none of which have full diplomatic ties with South Korea.

Won’t Isolate N. Korea


But he said he “will never seek to isolate North Korea” while improving relations with its Communist allies. His goal, he said, will be to stimulate the isolationist north into opening itself up so that “the Korean Peninsula will . . . cease to be the powder keg of East Asia.”

Roh offered no explanation for his about-face on the issue of student exchanges, “including student pilgrimages from one end of the peninsula to the other.” This is precisely what he had forbidden only a month and a half ago.

Analysts said the new attitude, obviously designed to defuse student unrest, stems in part from completion Sunday of the Olympics. Government officials said Roh had feared that North Korea might make propaganda out of a march to the truce village of Panmunjom before the Games were over.

The successful staging of the Games, despite a North Korean boycott, is believed to have reinforced Roh’s confidence in adopting new initiatives. As he said in his speech: “We have now acquired the confidence that we can do anything to which we put our minds.”

Travel to Communist Nations

As long as North Korea guarantees personal safety, he said, “there need not be any restriction on the size and format for youth exchanges.” He also said he wants to allow all citizens, including students, to travel freely to other Communist countries as well.

Roh made one of his strongest pledges yet to carrying out reforms aimed at achieving full democracy.

“I will keep my promise to build a new democratic nation,” he said. “I will not abuse any government power to advance the interests of the governing party. I will even more greatly respect pluralism and freedom in all segments of society. I will take the lead in reforming any (undemocratic) laws and institutions. I will take the initiative in implanting democratic principles in all spheres of national life.”


But he warned that the government will no longer restrain itself in dealing with “long pent-up popular demands erupting all at once.”

“The time has come to bring the tribulations of transition . . . to an end,” he said, warning that the law will be strictly enforced from now on. He mentioned “small groups of revolutionaries” as an example of people responsible for “violence and other illegal acts (that) cannot be tolerated any more.”

President Roh Tae Woo says South Korea will be an advanced industrialized nation by 1992 and will reduce its dependence on exports for growth. In Business.