SEOUL, South Korea — Opposition leader Kim Dae Jung blocked traffic for 2 1/2 hours Tuesday in a standoff with police, who stopped his car on a busy downtown street to prevent him from attending a political meeting.
Kim remained in his car, blocking an intersection during the confrontation. He finally ended his protest after more than 20 followers, including five legislators, were detained.
"All this is illegal," Kim told reporters, speaking through the window of the car. "I would rather they put me in jail."
Police Surround Home
After the incident, Kim, a former presidential candidate, was escorted by police to his home in western Seoul and put under house arrest. Scores of security men surrounded the home late Tuesday, and a police van blocked the driveway, Kim's aides said.
Witnesses said Kim had been driving through a downtown intersection near the Seoul City Hall on his way to the offices of the Council for the Promotion of Democracy, an opposition group led by Kim and fellow dissident Kim Young Sam.
About two blocks from the offices, where 70 people had begun a sit-in to protest a crackdown on political dissent, a police car pulled in front of Kim Dae Jung's sedan, forcing it to a halt, the witnesses said.
Kim's aides said the police ordered the opposition leader to return home, but Kim refused. Supporters and opposition legislators rushed to his defense, surrounding the car.
At the height of the standoff, witnesses said, dozens of protesters, including 12 who sat in the street around the car, 200 plainclothes police, 80 reporters and hundreds of onlookers surrounded the car.
Over 20 Arrested
After 1 1/2 hours, police began rounding up the dissidents, arresting more than 20 people, who chanted slogans as they were pushed into police buses. The detainees were driven to the outskirts of the capital and released, Kim's aides said later.
Government officials defended the legality of the police action, noting that Kim is under a suspended 20-year jail term for sedition and may not engage in political activity.
Tuesday's action against Kim came amid a continuing crackdown by the government on political dissidents, who it says are imbued with leftist ideologies.
Today, Seoul police raided the headquarters of another dissident group, the United Masses Movement for Democracy and Unification, breaking through a door and seizing scores of documents, witnesses said. The group was under government order to disband.