SEOUL, South Korea — President Chun Doo Hwan said today that he "fully accepts" the most sweeping reform program South Korea has ever seen "to promote epochal democratic development and national harmony."
The former general, who for the first five years of his term had rejected any consideration of constitutional revision, said in a nationwide television broadcast that his successor will be elected under a new constitution "if the (constitution) is expeditiously revised and enacted following an agreement between the government party and the opposition on a direct presidential election system."
With a solemn expression, Chun declared that the "substance" of bombshell proposals made Monday by the chairman of his ruling Democratic Justice Party, Roh Tae Woo, is "in full accord with my own thinking."
Flanked by flags of country and office and sitting behind a huge desk that dwarfed him, Chun, wearing glasses, spoke in a monotone throughout the 20-minute speech.
"Democracy is implemented not by word but by action," Chun said. "We can no longer ignore the fact that the only means democracy has are dialogue and compromise within the framework of law and order."
He warned that any new outbreak of "social chaos," such as the street demonstrations that swept the country from June 10 to 28 after his party named Roh as its presidential candidate, will not be tolerated.
"Let us work another miracle by developing Korea into a model of political development deserving to be so recorded in world history," Chun declared. "We must not be content with having merely become a model of economic development."
Roh's eight-point reform plan, which encompassed a program for democratization even more sweeping than the opposition had demanded, specifically called for Chun to grant amnesty to Kim Dae Jung, 63, who in 1971 was the opposition candidate in South Korea's last free and open presidential election. But Chun did not mention Kim by name.
Instead, he pledged to grant amnesties and restore civil rights "extensively" to "resolve antagonism and confrontation among citizens and to promote reconciliation and unity."
Roh's recommendation of amnesty for Kim--along with his acceptance of an opposition demand for direct presidential elections before the reins of government are scheduled to be turned over on Feb. 25, 1988--astonished both Koreans and foreign diplomats.
Kim was jailed by Chun on May 17, 1980, the night Chun carried out his coup, and was convicted of having fomented the rebellion in the southern city of Kwangju, which began after Kim was arrested. A death sentence was later reduced to a 20-year jail term, which Chun suspended to set Kim free.
The United States in 1980 called charges against Kim "far-fetched," but South Korean military leaders remain convinced that he is a demagogue with leftist leanings.
One Western diplomat said military commanders "loathe" Kim. The "conventional wisdom" that the military would not let Kim take office as president "remains unchanged," another diplomat said Tuesday.
Today, a Western diplomat said that "if there is a sticking point, it's (the absence of any mention of) Kim Dae Jung."
Even after Roh's dramatic announcement Monday, discussions continued within the ruling Democratic Justice Party on whether Kim should be given amnesty, the diplomat said.
Because of the suspended jail sentence, Kim has been deprived of his civil rights and cannot run for public office.
Kim himself, along with his political ally, Kim Young Sam, president of the new, hard-line Reunification Democratic Party, took no issue this morning with the absence of a specific assurance of amnesty for the former presidential candidate. But both opposition leaders complained about reported government plans to release only 1,100 people imprisoned for political crimes since Chun took office--a minority of the 3,000 or so they say are in jail.
"According to government-released figures," said Kim Dae Jung, "the government's definition of political prisoners is less than half of what we know them to be. Except for those who admit they are Communists, all political prisoners should be released immediately."
Kim Young Sam also called for reinstatement of university students who have been expelled from school for anti-government activities.
Unlike Monday, when Roh stunned the nation by announcing the sweeping proposals, the president's consent had been expected. But his words of approval, nonetheless, contained high drama.
After ramming through his authoritarian constitution in a referendum conducted while martial law was in effect in 1980, Chun for five years insisted that no amendment of the charter would be considered. Only in April, 1986, did he relent--on the condition that the ruling and opposition parties agree to revisions through a consensus.