South Korean dissidents denounced the visit of President Bush today as a sign of "unreasonable, neo-imperialistic interference" in Korean affairs and vowed to stage "peaceful" demonstrations nationwide.
Bush was flying here from Beijing for a six-hour stopover--the last on his East Asian tour. His visit coincided with growing anti-American sentiment among some sectors of South Korean society, which have protested the deployment of U.S. troops in this country and recent attempts to open the protected market to U.S. agricultural goods.
At a morning news conference, leaders of South Korea's largest dissident alliance, Chonminyon, or the National People's Democratic Movement League, accused Bush of supporting a "military dictatorship" by stopping here for a summit with President Roh Tae Woo, a former army general who succeeded an authoritarian ruler, Chun Doo Hwan, by election one year ago.
Bush also was to deliver a speech to the National Assembly, meet opposition party leaders and attend a reception for leaders of the local American community before departing for Washington later in the day.
Dissident Assails U.S.
Dissident leader Kim Keun Tae, a former political prisoner and torture victim who received the 1987 Robert F. Kennedy human rights award, told reporters that the United States "is the source of all suppression and sorrow to Korean people since the division of the Korean Peninsula."
Reading a protest letter to Bush, Kim declared that if America's "unreasonable, neo-imperialistic interference continues as today, the Korean people's struggle for anti-Americanism will (become) more vehement, which is not desireable for future, sound U.S.-Korean relations."
It was not clear how many protesters the alliance would be able to muster for a demonstration scheduled for noon in front of the American Embassy in Seoul. Thousands of riot police were deployed Saturday to prevent dissidents and students from congregating in the Myongdong district of central Seoul, but protesters set fire to a district office of the ruling Democratic Justice Party, according to news reports.
The dissident leaders said they have called for "peaceful demonstrations" today.
Meanwhile, the government issued a statement welcoming the Bush visit.
Significance of Trip Noted
"The significance of Mr. Bush's visit lies in the fact that it will reassure the friendly relations between the Republic of Korea and the United States of America, which are becoming more important in the changing environment of the world," the statement said.