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New S. Korea Opposition Party Formed; Leaders Warn Chun on Reform

May 02, 1987|Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea — A major new opposition party was formed Friday, and its leaders warned President Chun Doo Hwan to accept political reforms or face nationwide resistance.

Thousands of riot police were deployed around the city to prevent protests.

Kim Young Sam, who was named president of the new Reunification Democratic Party, said the party will be a strong, united opposition that will fight to restore democracy and end the rule of military-backed governments that have dominated South Korea since 1961.

"Our people are languishing under a brutal dictatorial rule without precedent in our history," Kim told 300 cheering supporters packed into a small hall as hundreds more listened in other rooms or stood outside.

Kim urged the government to agree to immediate talks on changing the political system to ensure democracy and save the country from a major confrontation.

Kim said democracy must be established if the 1988 Seoul Olympics are to be more than a tool to boost the government's image in the way Adolf Hitler sought to use the 1936 Olympic Games as a monument to Nazi Germany.

The Reunification Democratic Party will be the largest opposition group in the 276-member assembly with 67 lawmakers. It was formed after disputes over goals and leadership broke up the New Korea Democratic Party, the previous main opposition group.

Opposition leaders are demanding that the electoral college system of electing a president be abandoned and replaced by direct elections. They say the existing system favors the ruling party. Chun has said he will step down when his term expires in February, 1988, but he also has said his successor must be chosen under the electoral college system.

On April 13, Chun called off the deadlocked talks on constitutional reform until after the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics, saying it is in the national interest to maintain stability and ensure progress.

Riot police surrounded the building where the new party was formed and cordoned off the area in a major show of strength. Convoys of riot police were stationed at major intersections and along main roads in many parts of the city.

More than 100 opposition supporters were detained later in minor clashes outside the Seoul house of Kim Dae Jung, the country's other top opposition leader, who is under house arrest and was not allowed to attend the new party's convention.

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