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S. Korea Rivals to Pick 1 Candidate This Month

September 22, 1987|DAVID HOLLEY | Times Staff Writer

SEOUL, South Korea — The two top opposition leaders agreed Monday to decide by the end of this month which of them should be their party's nominee in South Korea's scheduled mid-December presidential election.

Kim Young Sam, president of the Reunification Democratic Party, and Kim Dae Jung, who holds the title of party adviser, also agreed on a power-sharing formula by which whoever is not the nominee will serve as party president.

"Kim Dae Jung and myself have agreed to select a single candidate by the end of this month," Kim Young Sam told reporters at the opposition party's headquarters Monday, as Kim Dae Jung sat at his side.

There had been speculation that rivalry between the two Kims might lead to a showdown vote at a party convention, which some opposition supporters had feared would divide and weaken the party. But Kim Dae Jung, who had contributed to such speculation by going on campaign-style trips to provincial cities earlier this month, indicated Monday that he has no intention of forcing a vote on the issue.

"I know too well that most of the people want the two Kims to field one candidate, and I will make the effort to complete the issue of candidacy before the end of this month," he told reporters.

The two Kims also agreed to set up a committee to prepare for an October convention to formally nominate the party's candidate.

Whoever is chosen will face Roh Tae Woo, president of the ruling Democratic Justice Party, which has already selected him as its nominee.

Amendment 'Gratifies' Chun

Meanwhile, a bill that would amend the constitution to provide for direct election of the president to a single five-year term was formally placed before the public for a constitutionally required 20-day period of public notice. The procedure to do this was for the bill to be approved by the Cabinet, signed by President Chun Doo Hwan, then published in an official gazette.

Chun, who took power in a 1980 coup and has pledged to step down in February after completing a seven-year term, said in a statement upon signing the bill that he was "overwhelmed by a stream of deep recollections as well as a feeling of gratification."

"This is because our aspiration to build a solid foundation for Korean democracy by banishing, once and for all, the specter of protracted unreasonable one-man rule . . . is now being successfully fulfilled," he said.

Chun added a colorful but vague warning, however, that South Korea's political troubles may not be over.

"We must always keep in mind that a good system does not necessarily guarantee a good result," he said. "To use a metaphor, the same clean water that becomes milk when drunk by a cow becomes venom when drunk by a poisonous snake. We must not forget that lesson, which can be learned from our own past experience and also from many foreign examples."

Minister of Home Affairs Lee Sang Hee said that the National Assembly vote to approve the amendment will be held Oct. 12. The constitutional revision will then be submitted to the voters in a national referendum, tentatively set for Oct. 27, he said.

The amendment has overwhelming support in the National Assembly, to which it was formally submitted Friday by 264 of the total 273 members.

Election Law Being Drafted

Roh Tae Woo and Kim Young Sam reached agreement earlier this month that the presidential election should be held by Dec. 20. It would be this country's first free presidential election since 1971.

Detailed rules for the election, however, must still be drawn up and approved by the National Assembly. The same bipartisan committee that hammered out the constitutional amendment now aims to finish drafting a revised presidential election law by the middle of next week.

The Reunification Democratic Party, which is viewed as especially strong among the young, wants to lower the voting age by one year to 19, but the Democratic Justice Party opposes that idea. The ruling party favors limiting the formal campaign to 20 days, while the opposition wants to allow 40 days.

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