SEOUL, South Korea — Riot police were called out to political rallies for the first time in South Korea's presidential election campaign Thursday as thousands of youths went on a rampage against Roh Tae Woo, forcing the ruling party nominee to flee a rally in Kunsan and cancel a second speech in Chonju.
Two men holding knives under their jackets were arrested in Kunsan.
Youths shouted, "Go away, Roh Tae Woo, butcher of Kwangju!" in both cities in the northern of the two Cholla provinces, where native son Kim Dae Jung commands overwhelming support in next Wednesday's election.
Cholla people blame President Chun Doo Hwan and Roh's ruling Democratic Justice Party for the deaths of 194 people, by official count, in Kwangju, where brutality by paratroopers transformed demonstrations against a coup by Chun into an insurrection in 1980.
Blames Regionalism, Leftists
In a press conference after his Chonju rally was called off, however, Roh blamed the trouble on regional antipathies against his Kyongsang region origins and on "leftist radicals."
It was the fourth time in three Cholla cities that violence has erupted against Roh. Police did not intervene in the earlier rallies, both in Kwangju.
In Seoul, meanwhile, Roh's major rivals, Kim Dae Jung and Kim Young Sam, agreed to meet today with Paek Ki Wan, a minor presidential candidate, to make another attempt to reduce the opposition field to a single candidate. Spokesmen for both Kims described hopes for an agreement as dim.
According to the Reuters news agency, a 20-year-old South Korean student died of burns, the second case of suicide by fire in a week carried out to press the opposition into fielding a single candidate.
Burned With Gasoline
Police said Park Yong Tae set himself ablaze with gasoline in the southwest town of Chuan on Wednesday while Kim Dae Jung was on a campaign tour in nearby Mokpo. Park, of Mokpo University, was taken to a hospital with serious burns and died Thursday.
A 29-year-old carpenter, Park Ung Su, burned himself to death five days ago in the central city of Taejon for the same reason.
As Roh spoke in Kunsan, where an American air force base is located, protesters exploded tear-gas grenades and threw stones, eggs and other objects at him. Roh, warning that South Korea "will come under control of radical leftist forces on the day after the election if either of the Kims is elected," was protected by bodyguards holding plastic shields. Riot police moved in to push back the surly crowd.
As Roh spoke, many in the crowd chanted Kim Dae Jung's name and shouted, "Down with the military dictatorship!"
Canopy of Shields
The former general left the rally standing atop a campaign truck. But as protesters started throwing things, bodyguards formed a canopy of shields over him. Small explosives also were set off.
More than a dozen people, including three journalists, were reported injured in Kunsan. About 20 were injured in Chonju.
Trouble began before the rally was scheduled to start in Chonju, and battles between police and students lasted nearly three hours.
Kim Dae Jung, meanwhile, campaigned behind a bulletproof shield for the second day after unconfirmed reports of an assassination plot against him. He said in a TV speech in the evening that Koreans are mature enough to sustain a stability built upon encouragement, rather than suppression, of the people's desires.
"Stability by suppression is like the silence of a cemetery," he said. "That is not real stability."
In another development, a poll conducted for a major daily newspaper by Gallup (Korea) showed that Roh Tae Woo was leading. It contradicted a survey made by the Korea Christian Research Institute for Social Affairs, the only other recent nationwide poll, which had Roh in third place.
Roh was favored by 24% of those surveyed by the Gallup Poll, Kim Young Sam by 17.3% and Kim Dae Jung by 15.3%. The poll showed 38.4% undecided.
Both polls were conducted in late November, or before the candidates started delivering television speeches Dec. 2. The Gallup Poll was obtained by The Times on the condition that the name of the newspaper that commissioned it be kept confidential. Publication of polls is outlawed by the Presidential Election Law.