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2 Rivals Vow Unity for S. Korean Democracy

March 07, 1985|SAM JAMESON | Times Staff Writer

SEOUL, South Korea — Two former rivals for the leadership of South Korea's political opposition met Wednesday for the first time in nearly five years and pledged a unified campaign to restore democracy to their country.

The meeting of Kim Dae Jung and Kim Young Sam took place soon after the government granted them a degree of freedom they had not enjoyed since May 17, 1980, when they were among hundreds of politicians banned from all political activity.

The two vowed Wednesday to avoid factional fighting within the newly invigorated opposition and to cooperate personally in seeking democratic reforms from President Chun Doo Hwan.

Will Not Run

Kim Young Sam went even further, declaring that "even after democracy is restored to Korea, I have absolutely no ambition to seek to lead the government." The remark was widely reported in the usually tightly controlled mass media.

Photographs of the two Kims, who are not related, appeared in all afternoon newspapers. There were also extensive reports of Kim Dae Jung's first day of physical--and, to a large degree, political--freedom here since he was arrested in May, 1980, as Chun seized power.

The photographs published Wednesday were the first fresh news photos of either man to appear in South Korean newspapers since the 1980 purge.

The emotional meeting of the two opposition leaders came as Chun ended his purge of the last 14 of the 567 politicians he banned in 1980 from participating in politics.

Kim Dae Jung, 61, was included among the 14, but he remains banned from politics--specifically from joining any political party or participating in the activities of any party--because of a 20-year suspended prison term on a conviction for sedition.

Chun, however, lifted the house arrest under which Kim Dae Jung had been placed Feb. 8 when he returned from a two-year exile in the United States. And 10 minutes after police removed barricades from the neighborhood surrounding Kim's home, fellow opposition leader Kim Young Sam arrived.

Greeted by Applause

He was greeted by applause by about 150 supporters of Kim Dae Jung, who had gathered in the courtyard of the tiny house.

Kim Young Sam, 56, who was president of South Korea's main opposition party at the time President Park Chun Hee was assassinated in October, 1979, embraced Kim Dae Jung, who was the party's standard-bearer in 1971, the last free and open presidential election the country has had.

Kim Young Sam, who regained full political freedom through Chun's lifting of the purge, said he will not join any political party but will continue to serve as co-chairman of the citizen's group, the Council for the Promotion of Democracy. The council was one of the two pillars of the newly organized New Korea Democratic Party, which emerged as the No. 1 opposition group in elections Feb. 12 for the National Assembly, South Korea's one-house Parliament.

Kim Dae Jung said he was "very moved" at seeing Kim Young Sam again, and the latter said he was "overwhelmed" by the meeting.

Will Wait and See

Kim Dae Jung added that he will wait to see what further moves President Chun takes toward greater democracy before deciding what specific actions to take.

"If the government moves toward increased democracy, I am prepared to cooperate," he said. "I see no reason not to have a dialogue with the government. And a dialogue will be necessary to change the current system into a democratic one."

Two other prominent opposition figures also visited Kim Dae Jung's home minutes after his house arrest was lifted. They were Lee Min Woo, president of the New Korea Democratic Party, and Lee Chul Seung, leader of one of the party's main factions.

After his three opposition colleagues had left, Kim Dae Jung went into the courtyard of his home and shook hands with each of the supporters gathered there. Then, he delivered his first public speech in South Korea since 1980. Despite the continuing restrictions on his activities, it was political in nature.

Restoration of Democracy

He called for the restoration of democracy and, reinforcing his public pact with Kim Young Sam, promised that "there will be no factionalism in the fight for freedom."

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