SEOUL, South Korea — The main South Korean opposition party, saying that its leader's political talks with President Chun Doo Hwan earlier in the day were a failure, late Wednesday threw its weight behind a major street protest scheduled for Friday.
"The top-level meeting today broke down," said Kim Tae Ryong, spokesman for the opposition Reunification Democratic Party. "We have no other choice but to stage struggle by peaceful and nonviolent means along with all democratic forces."
The party leader, Kim Young Sam, who met with Chun for three hours at the Blue House, the presidential mansion, returned to his party headquarters obviously discouraged and angry.
Doubts Chun's Grasp
"I told the president that he does not seem to know what is really going on (in South Korea)," Kim said at an afternoon press conference. In a statement issued later, he said, "We condemn the current regime's scheme to prolong its power and declare strongly (our intention) to struggle . . . for democratization."
In his talks with Chun, according to a government summary, Kim told the president: "I have had the National Coalition for a Democratic Constitution twice postpone their next rallies. But it has become difficult to postpone them any further." The coalition is sponsoring Friday's protest march.
The coalition, in which Kim's party has joined an amalgam of religious and human rights groups, organized a June 10 rally to protest the police-torture death of a Seoul university student. The rally's cancellation by the government coincided with the initial explosion of anti-government protests.
Will March on Chun Mansion
During Friday's protest--reportedly scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. (1 a.m. PDT)--demonstrators will attempt to march on the presidential mansion, which is heavily guarded by armed troops.
"I think we're in for trouble Friday," a Western diplomat said this morning. "If you have a cadre of 20,000 people already, you have the potential for many more." He referred to the estimated 20,000 students who rallied at Seoul's Yonsei University on Tuesday and vowed to take part in the march whatever the outcome of the Chun-Kim talks.
One of Kim's demands of the president was to lift the house arrest of his opposition colleague, Kim Dae Jung, and restore his civil rights. At midnight Wednesday, the police cordon around Kim Dae Jung's house was removed.
Surrounded by several hundred supporters and reporters who joined him outside the house, Kim described his 78 days of restriction, during which even his children could not visit him. He said jokingly that during the period of detention, he and his wife "had a very long and happy honeymoon."
In a more somber mood this morning, Kim predicted that Friday's demonstration will be a "turning point" for the opposition, demonstrating its power to the government. He called for a peaceful protest but said he anticipated a violent police reaction. The primary focus of the talks between Chun, a former general, and Kim Young Sam, a lifelong politician, was Chun's decision last April 13 to abandon negotiations between the ruling and opposition parties on revising the authoritarian constitution that the president imposed after he took power in a coup seven years ago.
On June 10, the ruling Democratic Justice Party nominated Roh Tae Woo, a longtime Chun ally and the president's handpicked choice, to run for the presidency in indirect elections late this year under the Chun constitution. That same day, students and other anti-government forces began a series of demonstrations against Chun's rule. Violent protests have swept the country for two weeks, resulting in thousands of injuries on both sides.
In the last few days, Chun has come under heavy pressure from members of his party--as well as U.S. officials--to rescind his April decision to postpone talks on constitutional revision until after Seoul's 1988 Summer Olympics, by which time Roh would be expected to occupy the Blue House under constitutional provisions and election laws that favor the ruling party.
Offered to Resume Talks
Government radio and the unofficial government summary of the Chun-Kim talks said that Chun, in the face of mounting protests, offered to resume the constitutional talks immediately.
"Please resume the constitutional debate," the summary quoted him as saying. "I have empowered Roh (the ruling party's chairman as well as its presidential nominee) with the responsibility and power to deal with political affairs. . . . I hope that you will meet with Chairman Roh and have open discussions with him."
Kim was quoted as responding: "You are responsible for state affairs. I think that the discussions should be held with the responsible person."
Asked later at his press conference whether he and the president had agreed to resume the talks, Kim merely shook his head and said he insisted on dealing directly with Chun.