SEOUL, South Korea — Opposition leader Kim Young Sam made what a party spokesman described as virtually a declaration of his candidacy for president Wednesday, but his rival, Kim Dae Jung, said he questions the other Kim's commitment to democracy.
Kim Young Sam, president of the Reunification Democratic Party, said at a news conference that he considers himself best qualified to run as the liberal opposition standard bearer in the election scheduled to take place before Dec. 20.
He said that failure to agree on a single opposition candidate would brand both of them as "sinners in history." But he said he thinks that he should run for president and that Kim Dae Jung should become party president.
Kim Young Sam had said much the same thing Tuesday in a private meeting with Kim Dae Jung at which they failed to agree on who should run for president. But what he said at Wednesday's press conference amounted to a "virtual announcement of his candidacy," party spokesman Kim Tae Ryong told reporters.
Kim Dae Jung, who was the opposition candidate in the last direct presidential election--in 1971--again rejected the suggestion that he be satisfied with the party presidency.
Informed by reporters of what Kim Young Sam said Wednesday, Kim Dae Jung said he would disclose his position on the candidacy question next week.
In his sharpest public criticism of his rival to date, he said he has doubts about Kim Young Sam's commitment to true democracy. He said that Kim Young Sam's suggestion that a Kim Dae Jung candidacy might bring on a military coup "forces me to suspect that there is a fundamental difference between the two of us on democratization itself."
'Shocked' by Remarks
He also lashed out at Kim Young Sam for suggesting that his rival's origins in the Cholla region would exacerbate traditional differences between that part of the country, in southwestern South Korea, and the Kyongsang region in the southeast. Roh Tae Woo, the ruling Democratic Justice Party candidate for president, comes from the Kyongsang region.
"I am greatly shocked by Kim Young Sam's remarks," Kim Dae Jung told the reporters. "I am grieved that a colleague from the opposition, which has fought to end military rule and regional antipathy, could develop such a theory."
Meanwhile, opposition party members in the National Assembly criticized both party leaders for failing to fulfill their promise to agree on a single candidate by the end of September.
"If the two Kims think the people will continue to follow them as both run for president, they are suffering an illusion," one assemblyman was quoted as saying after a caucus of the party members.
Followers of Kim Young Sam were reported to have criticized him for all but declaring his candidacy on the very day that he had promised to resolve the single-candidate question.
Kim Dae Jung's backers also criticized their leader for abandoning the effort to agree on a single candidate after just one meeting on the question.
Hwang Myung Soo, a leader of the Council for the Promotion of Democracy--of which the two Kims are co-chairmen--began a hunger strike to emphasize his demand that the two men come to an agreement.
In other developments, there were new arrests in connection with the labor strife that has swept the country since President Chun Doo Hwan promised July 1 to carry out democratic reforms.
Also, the authorities announced that about 100 of the 419 workers still in jail will be released by next Wednesday, a traditional autumn full-moon festival known as Chusok. This is customarily highlighted by family get-togethers.
The authorities made it clear, however, that workers charged with arson and damaging property will be brought to trial.
So far, 120 of 539 workers arrested since July 1 have been freed.