SEOUL, South Korea — Police Saturday increased the squeeze on anti-government protest in South Korea by suppressing a rally by lower-class workers and turning back populist presidential candidate Kim Dae Jung who was to address the gathering.
Kim was barred from the grounds of the downtown Myongdong Cathedral, a traditional protest hot spot, where about 50 university students had been staging a sit-in since Tuesday. Some of his aides who reached the cathedral, the seat of South Korean Roman Catholicism, told reporters that Kim's car had been stopped by police. Kim was told that the rally for the poor, which he planned to address, had been banned and he withdrew, the aides said.
Hundreds of riot police and plainclothesmen were deployed in the Myongdong district with orders to enforce the ban. Only a relative handful of protesters reached the cathedral grounds: about 40 truck drivers, 30 workers who said they represented the urban poor and 20 protesting students, the remainder of the group that staged the sit-in.
They disbanded in late afternoon in response to a warning from police that the rally had been declared illegal and participants were subject to arrest.
One of the student demonstrators, a 22-year-old senior from Ewha women's university, said her fellow protesters had returned to their campuses to try to persuade others to go to Myongdong. But the heavy police presence in the narrow streets of the shopping and nightspot district apparently discouraged them.
Clashes between students and police, which subsided after the massive anti-government protests of June and the labor conflicts of August, have increased in the past two weeks. On Friday, students at Yonsei University burned a police bus with firebombs just outside the campus gates. Six riot policemen were on the bus, but none was injured.
The mounting protests--including the banned rally Saturday--back the political opposition's demand for a neutral, "pan-national" Cabinet to oversee December's presidential election. Radical students previously had put their weight behind a failed boycott of the Oct. 27 referendum that set up the vote, which will be South Korea's first direct presidential election in 16 years.
Passive Days Ending
"The anti-government feeling among the students hasn't decreased" since June, said Father John Daly, an American priest who works with displaced squatters at the cathedral. "Now it's just coming out in the open again."
The scene at the church Saturday indicates that the passive days are ending in Myongdong:
-- In the street, above the heads of the helmeted, green-clad riot police swung a banner: "The Cathedral Is for Prayer, Not for Demonstrations"--the Myongdong Shopowners Assn.
-- At the top of the church driveway, just outside the cathedral, the reception committee for the 1 p.m. wedding of Huh Ki Sun and his bride, Ahn Ji Sook, waited anxiously at 1:15 with no sign of Ahn. Finally she pushed through the crowd, dressed in a white, Western-style gown, an improbable contrast with the green ranks of police surrounding the grounds.
-- On the slope of the driveway, as the wedding began 40 yards away, demonstrating workers began a protest song:
Sons and daughters do not grieve,
You are sons and daughters of a worker.
My youth has gone away with the noise of machines.
Do you want good food, money? Do you want an easy life?
Don't! You are the sons and daughters of a worker.
Saturday's short-lived protest at the cathedral was the second in four days. On Tuesday, police seized 133 students in the streets around the church, breaking up a two-hour rally supporting installation of a neutral Cabinet for the election period. National Police Headquarters reported that about 16,000 students took part in protests across the country Tuesday, marking national Students Day.
Police officials have banned the interim-Cabinet rallies as a threat to security and social stability during the election period. Kim Dae Jung and the other opposition front-runner, Kim Young Sam, began calling for a neutral Cabinet about two months ago, insisting that a fair presidential election cannot be held under the administration of President Chun Doo Hwan.
Students' Rallying Cry
Chun has rejected the proposal as unnecessary and unconstitutional, but it has become the principal demand of both the student movement and opposition politicians, surpassing in rhetoric even the call for release of political prisoners.