SEOUL, South Korea — Tens of thousands of demonstrators are expected to take to the streets of Seoul and 17 other South Korean cities today in anti-government protest marches.
Gen. Kwon Bok Kyung, the national police director, Thursday declared the demonstrations illegal and labeled the sponsor, the National Coalition for a Democratic Constitution, a "subversive group." Kwon said that police will deal sternly with the "reckless and illegal demonstrations."
Police detained more than 1,800 people today in street sweeps of dissident activists, United Press International reported.
The protests come in the wake of a meeting between President Chun Doo Hwan and Kim Young Sam, head of the main opposition party. Kim's party called Wednesday's talks, aimed at a political solution to two weeks of turmoil here, a failure, and threw its weight behind today's street demonstrations.
Kim Dae Jung, the other major opposition leader, said Thursday, "I will do my best to encourage demonstrators to be moderate and nonviolent. Violent protesters can't get support from middle classes. . . . Violence can invite more violence from the dictatorial government." But he added that he anticipates trouble.
Kim Dae Jung was released from 78 days of house arrest at midnight Wednesday, a precondition that Kim Young Sam set for meeting Chun. This morning, Kim was placed under house arrest again, wire services reported, and police sealed off his house to keep him from attending today's march. Police told him the house arrest will be lifted Saturday, his aides said.
Thursday, the government said that it will comply in part with Kim Young Sam's other precondition, the release of demonstrators arrested since the protests began June 10 when the government party nominated its chairman, Roh Tae Woo, as its presidential candidate in elections still tentatively scheduled for late this year. The prosecutor's office said it would free more than 200 of the demonstrators Monday.
Chung Kyong Shik, a prosecution official, reported that 321 people had been arrested through Wednesday, with 239 of them turned over for prosecution, the vast majority college students. Among those who will not be released, Chung said, were 13 officials of the National Coalition for a Democratic Constitution, the amalgam of religious and human rights groups that is sponsoring today's marches.
Among the 13 is Yang Soon Jik, a vice president of Kim Young Sam's Reunification Democratic Party, which is a member of the coalition.
Meanwhile, Chun met Thursday with Roman Catholic Cardinal Stephen Kim, the last in a series of meetings he has held this week with elder statesmen, churchmen and opposition leaders designed to portray himself as ready for what his spokesman called "a grand compromise" on the eve of the rallies.
The cardinal, however, did not cooperate.
The prelate, who heads South Korea's 2 million Catholics, told Chun he hoped he would "make a courageous decision to democratize the country" before leaving office next February, a government summary of the meeting said. He also advised the president that "you should accept a direct presidential election system as the best system"--the system demanded by the opposition, which Chun has rejected for more than a year.
Cardinal Kim also urged Chun to accept the opposition's proposal to let the people resolve the impasse over constitutional reform by voting in a referendum on what form of government should be adopted--the proposal Chun rejected in his talks with Kim Young Sam.
"I hope you . . . will make a wise decision to accept the popular will and establish the framework for democratization (so that) you will retire with the good wishes of the people," the prelate told Chun, according to a government summary of the conversation.
As police and students prepared for today's protests, the death of the first demonstrator in the two weeks of clashes was reported. Lee Tae Chun, 28, a rubber plant worker, was critically injured last week in a protest in the southern port of Pusan. He died in a hospital Wednesday. His family and fellow demonstrators say he was hit in the head by a police tear-gas canister, then fell from an overpass.
The police have also suffered one fatality in the often violent clashes that have swept the country since June 10. The policeman was killed when a protester, later identified as a former convict, drove a stolen bus into a line of riot police in Taejon.
Demonstrations slacked off early this week, apparently in anticipation of the Chun-Kim Young Sam talks, and the college campuses in Seoul were generally quiet Thursday. But a sharp clash between students and riot police took place at Sogang University, and at nearby Yonsei University an estimated 2,500 medical students from eight campuses staged a peaceful anti-government protest, attired in hospital gowns and surgical masks.