SEOUL, South Korea — The government took steps Thursday to bolster the presidential hopes of Roh Tae Woo, the candidate of South Korea's ruling Democratic Justice Party.
It raised the price it will pay farmers for rice, lowered the price of petroleum products and stepped up a campaign against the radical left by arresting 11 leaders of an anti-government organization on charges dating back to last March.
Farmers will receive 14% more for the rice they produce this year and an increase of 10% for the barley they grow next year. It is the first double-digit price increase that the government has approved for rice since 1982. Last year, the government raised the producer price by 6%.
Keeping Up With Workers
The decision announced Thursday was reached after Roh promised farm leaders that the rice price would be fixed at a high level to keep farm income in line with the wages of urban workers, who have won pay raises averaging 22.6% this year.
The government, citing stable fertilizer prices, had earlier proposed to raise the purchase price by only 4%, in keeping with President Chun Doo Hwan's anti-inflation policy.
Prices for petroleum products and gasoline will be reduced by an average of 10.2%, the government announced. It said this will help cut costs for manufacturers, who were forced by labor strife that broke out in July to raise wages by 13.5% above increases of 9.1% that had been approved earlier in the year.
Power Rates May Drop
The new refinery prices will enable power companies to reduce charges for industrial electricity by around 4%. An announcement of reductions in power rates is expected next week, government officials said.
These moves are expected to strengthen the candidacy of Roh, Chun's handpicked nominee, in the first direct presidential election in South Korea in 16 years. It is scheduled to take place by Dec. 20.
The move against the left was also seen as an effort to help Roh, who is presenting himself as a candidate who stands for stability.
The government announced the arrest of 11 leaders of Minmintu, the National Federation of Students Fighting for Nationhood and Democracy. It said warrants have been issued for the arrest of eight others.
National police headquarters, which made the announcement, did not indicate where or when the arrests were made. Nor was it explained why no action had been taken against the 11 until now, although their alleged offenses took place months ago.
Communist Line Charged
The police identified Ku Kyo Son, 25, a woman expelled from Sungkyunkwan University, as the radicals' leader. She and the other 10, most of them former students, were accused under the National Security Law of spreading Communist North Korean propaganda, including charges that South Korea is ruled by "military fascists exploiting the masses to serve the interests of American and Japanese imperialists and Korean monopolistic capitalists."
The police charged that the Minmintu leaders had published 80,000 copies of a newsletter that "served the interests of North Korea."
The police said the arrests will cripple the movement and prevent repetition of the violent student protests that swept the country in June, forcing the government to promise extensive democratic reforms and an end to authoritarian rule.
"As a result of the arrests, the organizations of the most violent campus groups . . . are expected to collapse," the statement said.