YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Churches Attack Chun's Election Stand

April 15, 1987|From Times Wire Services

SEOUL, South Korea — Church leaders joined the attack Tuesday on President Chun Doo Hwan's hard line against direct presidential elections and constitutional change.

Chun called a meeting today of lawmakers in his governing Democratic Justice Party to bolster his stand against the opposition's calls for constitutional changes.

In a speech to the nation on Monday, Chun announced that when his seven-year term ends in February, 1988, his successor will be chosen by the electoral college system established under the present constitution.

Opposition leaders say the system is weighed in favor of Chun's party and, as their prime political objective, have sought to amend the constitution to provide for direct election of the president.

Chun opposes changing the constitution before the 1988 Summer Olympic Games in Seoul and insists that his stand against reform is necessary to secure order and a peaceful staging of the Games.

The Korean National Council of Churches, which often takes strong stands against government measures it considers suppressive, demanded that Chun withdraw his hard-line stand. A statement from the council said: "Olympics held with a people suppressed by physical force could not be a peaceful festival. It would be a seed for misfortune."

Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou Hwan, the country's highest-ranking Roman Catholic leader, said in an Easter message that Chun's remarks Monday brought "sorrow" to the Korean people.

"Tear gas bombs will continue to explode in this land . . . , " the prelate said. "Dreams for a constitutional amendment, which was once expected to open a new chapter in politics, have been dashed by deceitful and partisan maneuverings."

The Korean Bar Assn. also condemned Chun's action.

Opposition leader Kim Young Sam called for Korean authorities to follow the example of President Corazon Aquino's government in the Philippines, employing "love and conciliation" to carry out a "real dialogue" aimed at resolving Korea's political conflicts.

Meanwhile, the nation's other top dissident, Kim Dae Jung, remained under house arrest. Larger police forces were deployed around his home and only his wife and driver could come and go.

In Washington, the State Department issued a brief statement Tuesday saying the United States opposes the restrictions placed by the government on Kim Dae Jung.

The government's hard stand against reform came after the two opposition leaders said last week they were breaking away from the New Korea Democratic Party, which had been the major opposition force, and would form a new political group in the struggle against Chun's rule.

Chun sought last year to postpone any political liberalization until after the Olympics. However, public pressure, including a series of explosive student demonstrations, forced him to agree to negotiations between his party and the opposition on what system would replace the indirect presidential election system.

The ruling Democratic Justice Party and opposition parties have been in dispute for more than a year on how to amend the constitution.

Los Angeles Times Articles