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S. Korea Parties Agree on Draft of New Charter

September 01, 1987|DAVID HOLLEY | Times Staff Writer

SEOUL, South Korea — The ruling and opposition parties agreed Monday on the rough draft of a new constitution intended to bring democracy to South Korea.

The draft constitution provides for election of the president by direct popular vote for a single five-year term. Direct presidential elections were a key opposition demand in the student-led anti-government riots of June.

A detailed version of the document is to be drawn up within the next 10 days or so by a bipartisan subcommittee of the National Assembly and sent to the full assembly for approval. It would then be submitted for a national referendum in October, with presidential elections planned for December.

'My Heart Is Full'

"I am delighted and my heart is full of deep emotion," said Roh Tae Woo, president of the ruling Democratic Justice Party, about the agreement. Roh is also his party's candidate for president.

Despite the agreement, political tension remained high. Kim Young Sam, head of the opposition Reunification Democratic Party and a potential presidential candidate, called off a meeting with Roh scheduled for Monday to protest what the opposition says is the continued detention of about 330 political prisoners.

"We are concerned that the government has launched a major suppression of moderate elements in the opposition," Kim told reporters in announcing his decision to postpone the meeting.

Talks between Roh and Kim--they have yet to have a direct exchange of views--are seen as important in preparing for elections for president and the National Assembly. Monday's announcement of agreement on the draft constitution may set the stage for them to meet later this week.

Elsewhere, more trouble threatened. University students are to return to campuses today from summer vacation, and a demonstration already is scheduled for this afternoon at Seoul National University.

Student organizers said they will demand the immediate release of the student body presidents of Seoul National University, Yonsei University and Ewha Women's University. All were arrested last month for allegedly anti-government activities or statements.

And labor strife continued. Tens of thousands of workers have gone on strike in recent weeks, and about 700 strikes across the country still were unsettled Monday.

About 15,000 unionized drivers for taxi companies in Seoul are set to go on strike today in a bid for higher wages and better working conditions.

A police spokesman said that formal charges have been filed against 52 people arrested in riots that erupted Friday in Seoul and nine other cities. The riots, the worst since the severe June unrest that persuaded the ruling party to promise democratic reforms, were to protest the death of a striking shipyard worker killed by a police tear-gas grenade.

Prime Minister Kim Chung Yul charged last week that leftists were trying to use the strikes to spark a violent revolution. He said the government will maintain law and order at any cost.

But the National Coalition for a Democratic Constitution, an opposition alliance, has charged that President Chun Doo Hwan's government plans to scrap its promise of full democracy by using the nationwide labor unrest to justify a new crackdown.

President Chun, a former general who came to power after a military coup in 1979, is scheduled to step down in February.

Under the agreement announced Monday, the next president will no longer have the power to dissolve the National Assembly. Also embodied in the new constitution is the political neutrality of the armed forces, along with guarantees of human rights and, for labor, provisions for collective bargaining.

The negotiators sidestepped one of the last obstacles to agreement--an opposition demand that the voting age be lowered from 20 to 19. They decided that the age requirement should be set by legislation rather than by the constitution.

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