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Kim Young Sam Rally Broken Up in Kwangju : Rock-Throwing, Chanting Protesters Force Him Off Stage in Rival's Hometown

November 15, 1987|NICK B. WILLIAMS Jr. | Times Staff Writer

KWANGJU, South Korea — Chanting, rock-throwing protesters broke up a political rally Saturday by presidential candidate Kim Young Sam here in the hometown of his rival in the opposition, Kim Dae Jung.

The visiting politician was driven from an outdoor stage at the Kwangju railway station by a barrage of thrown objects accompanied by a chorus of chants for the local favorite. Kim, his appearance delayed 45 minutes by the boisterous crowd, delivered only a brief scolding before departing.

"My great citizens of Kwangju, whom are you doing this for? This will benefit only Chun and Roh," he shouted over the tumult, referring to President Chun Doo Hwan and ruling party nominee Roh Tae Woo. "I will not speak under these circumstances."

The leader of the Reunification Democratic Party, whose political break with Kim Dae Jung has split the opposition, then wheeled and left the stage. Aides whisked him to a waiting car, chased by yelling students who knocked over a food stand in pursuit.

Stage Quickly Emptied

The stage emptied within minutes, leaving only placards, sticks, shoes and broken eggs that had been hurled from the crowd.

Neither Kim nor his party officials were injured in the melee, but two Korean news photographers were reportedly hit by rocks.

The violence here came as President Chun, who will leave office Feb. 25, announced officially that the voting for his successor will be held Dec. 16, which he designated a national holiday. The official 30-day campaign period begins Monday, and the Central Election Management Committee will accept registrations until next Saturday.

Without referring to the incident in Kwangju, Chun denounced "the fanning of regional antagonism."

Trouble had been expected in Kwangju ever since Kim Dae Jung's aides had been roughed up two weeks ago in Pusan, Kim Young Sam's hometown. There, about 300 protesters gathered outside Kim Dae Jung's hotel, brawling with his supporters and throwing rocks through the windows.

The disruption here in Kwangju underlines the bitter rivalry between the two Kims and the historic antipathy between the Cholla region, of which Kwangju is the major city, and Kim Young Sam's power base in the Kyongsang region and Pusan.

Avoid 'Unhappy Incidents'

On Friday, Kim Dae Jung had appealed to the citizens of Kwangju to avoid "any unhappy incidents" at his rival's rally Saturday, his first venture into the Cholla region since the campaign began for December's presidential election.

Lee Kwang Woo, a local official of Kim Dae Jung's new Party for Peace and Democracy, insisted Saturday morning that no trouble was expected and said party headquarters had sent a sound truck through the city of 800,000 calling for calm. "The people of this province are not aggressive," he claimed. "They just want a fair election."

An hour before the scheduled start of the rally, however, trouble appeared certain. Supporters of Kim Young Sam had surrounded the stage, awaiting their candidate, but they were ringed by an even larger crowd of Kim Dae Jung backers. A few fights broke out where the rival camps converged.

Long before Kim arrived, his opponents had hijacked the rally. Students supporting Kim Dae Jung pushed through the opposing ranks, chanting his name. Kim Young Sam campaign leaflets were heaped onto bonfires in the square in front of the railway station.

Before the placards started flying, the two camps tried to out-cheer each other, and the square rocked with the racket like an American college football game.

In an attempt to appease the crowd, Kim Young Sam's aides turned the microphone over to a student leader from Kwangju's Chonnam University. But his speech only incited further tension. He demanded "clear positions" from Kim on a series of hot campaign and student issues.

Refers to Uprising

Referring to the brutal military repression of a demonstration-turned-insurrection here in May, 1980, he declared: "The problem of Kwangju should be solved by a Kwangju citizen. You (Kim Young Sam) say you are most qualified to solve this problem. We want the execution of the murderers. What is your position?"

The first attempt of the candidate's motorcade to reach the stage was met by a barrage of stones and eggs, and the cars turned back to look for an alternate entry. When Kim finally got through to the speaker's stand by a back route, he was met almost immediately with catcalls and flying objects. The bonfires of campaign literature rained ashes on the stage. His appearance lasted just five minutes.

Kim and his party left for the port city of Masan, in Kyongsangnam province, where the candidate will hold a rally today on his home turf. He has no more scheduled visits to the Cholla region.

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