SEOUL, South Korea — A firebomb fell within 10 feet of Roh Tae Woo's car Saturday in the central city of Taegu as militant students continued to harass the election campaign of the ruling party's presidential candidate.
Despite heavy police security, students mingling with a large welcoming crowd in Taegu, Roh's hometown, hurled more than 10 gasoline-filled bottle bombs at his motorcade, but no injuries were reported. The candidate's car sped off to a local gymnasium, where he made a scheduled speech.
In the western Cholla provinces on Wednesday and Thursday, students throwing eggs, rocks and homemade tear-gas grenades disrupted appearances by the 54-year-old former general.
The government news agency said police deployed 3,000 officers in Taegu to protect Roh, the hand-picked candidate of President Chun Doo Hwan, who took power in a 1980 military coup. Police swept up more than 50 militant students and anti-government dissidents before the motorcade began, the agency reported, but failed to prevent the attack on the motorcade. Thirteen protesters were arrested at the scene.
Meanwhile, three other presidential hopefuls campaigned in provincial cities without incident. Kim Dae Jung, speaking in Chongju, the city where he was once jailed by the Chun government, declared again that he is in the race for the December election.
"I am the only opposition candidate who can represent the nation's democratic forces," he declared. His candidacy has split the fragile opposition alliance under the Reunification Democratic Party.
The party's president, Kim Young Sam, has challenged his rival to a membership vote for the party nomination on Nov. 5. Kim Dae Jung, who at 63 is four years older than his rival, promised an answer by Monday. He apparently delivered that answer Saturday in Chongju, where his aides said he will run as "the people's candidate," pulling his faction out of the Reunification Democratic Party.
The prospect of a single opposition candidacy is apparently dead.
Both Kims are aiming their campaign oratory at Roh and what they call "a continuation of the military dictatorship" under his candidacy; but by both running, they ensure a split opposition vote. Close supporters of each Kim are unbending in their determination to keep their man in the race.
Meanwhile, many average voters who oppose the quarter-century of military-dominated governments here seem disappointed or disgusted that the opportunity to defeat the ruling party candidate in a fair election is now imperiled.
"I just don't understand it," a Seoul shopkeeper said Saturday. "Either one could win, but with both (running), we'll lose."
Kim Young Sam, speaking Saturday to a large rally in Taejon, declared: "I would concede the candidacy to Kim Dae Jung, if it guaranteed democratization of the country. But if he becomes the opposition candidate, it will aggravate provincialism, and as a matter of fact, many people oppose him." Kim Dae Jung is a native of Cholla, while Kim Young Sam and Roh are both from Kyongsang, longtime rival regions.
In his speech in Taegu, one of a series inaugurating local chapters of the ruling party's new Youth Service Corps, a campaign organization, Roh called for an end to regional politics, though outlining no plan to achieve it. He also pledged to root out corruption in government, an opposition campaign theme against the Chun administration.
The fourth major figure in the race, Kim Jong Pil, prime minister under the late President Park Chung Hee, campaigned in Uijongbu on Saturday and called for privatization of government-controlled television. He has yet to officially declare his candidacy.
Student militants are split on the election itself. A group supporting a revolutionary constitutional assembly instead of elections will hold a rally at a Seoul University today. Kim Young Sam and Kim Dae Jung have been invited to speak. Under government orders to suppress any opposition to the election, scheduled no later than Dec. 20, police are expected to be out in force.