SEOUL, South Korea — Amid indications that the ruling party's candidate is falling behind, a U.S. diplomat reiterated Monday that the United States is opposed to any intervention by South Korea's armed forces in the presidential election scheduled for Dec. 16.
The diplomat's statement, made on condition that he not be identified by name, was the second such warning in a week.
"We believe the election process should be culminated according to procedures," the diplomat said. "We are opposed to any disruption or interruption of that process by any sector of society, including the military."
Military tolerance of the election has been based on the expectation of a victory by Roh Tae Woo, the ruling party candidate. However, a Roh victory now seems less certain, and many analysts believe that a victory by either of the two major opposition candidates, Kim Young Sam and Kim Dae Jung, might be unacceptable to the military leaders.
A Western diplomat discounted military intervention as unlikely, but he did not rule it out as a possibility.
"Basically, I'm still optimistic," he said. "There is a tremendous consensus for seeing this election through to the end, and that affects most soldiers, too, by and large."
He said that "most Koreans would view military intervention as worse than (that in) 1979-80" and warned that there could be a major uprising if the military steps in.
In 1979, Gen. Chun Doo Hwan and Roh, then also a general, seized control of the army, and in 1980, they carried out a coup d'etat that installed Chun as president. Roh was later named to head Chun's Democratic Justice Party and is now its candidate for president.
One of the victims of the 1979 army takeover was Gen. Chung Seung Hwa, who was ousted as chief of staff. Now, Chung has endorsed the candidacy of Kim Young Sam, and some analysts think that if Kim Young Sam is elected, he might let Chung carry out an army house-cleaning.
One indication that Roh is faring poorly came in a poll, unpublished here but made available to The Times on Monday, that was conducted Nov. 27-29 by the Korea Christian Research Institute for Social Affairs.
The poll was based on interviews with 1,497 people nationwide. Of these, 26.8% said they would vote for Kim Dae Jung, 23.4% for Kim Young Sam, 18.9% for Roh and 7.3% for a fourth candidate, Kim Jong Pil. Ten percent declined to say whom they favor, and the rest said they had not made up their minds.
Roh warned again at a rally in Chongju on Monday that victory by an opposition candidate would bring on a crisis.
"In the unlikely event that an opposition candidate wins," he said in a televised address, "the order that has been established would be upset completely . . . because they would have to distribute positions to their supporters. There would be immense chaos and crisis because of impure elements to which the opposition has mortgaged itself. Only I, Roh Tae Woo, can guarantee stability."
Kim Dae Jung also addressed a television audience, and he appeared to be more relaxed than in earlier TV appearances. He made a direct appeal to the military.
"Some of you military people must have reservations about me as a result of this dictatorial government's propaganda," he said. "I state clearly that I am 100% anti-Communist. I fully support national security, and I respect the military."
Kim Young Sam was forced to curtail a campaign speech in Yosu in South Cholla province. Fights broke out between his supporters and people who said they were supporters of Kim Dae Jung.
Kim, standing behind shields held by bodyguards, delivered his speech, but it was shortened considerably. Rocks and pieces of wood showered the speaker's stand. More than 40 people were reported injured.