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S. Korea Opposition Assails Roh's Role in 1979 Mutiny

December 13, 1987|NICK B. WILLIAMS Jr. | Times Staff Writer

SEOUL, South Korea — Major opposition candidates Saturday lashed out at the role of ruling party nominee Roh Tae Woo in a 1979 military mutiny and the brutal repression of a 1980 civilian insurrection.

As the hotly contested campaign for the South Korean presidency entered its final weekend, the opposition standard-bearers campaigned in Seoul and the provinces, and all the major candidates made their final television appearances, bidding for votes in Wednesday's election.

Kim Young Sam, nominee of the Reunification Democratic Party, toured his hometown of Pusan, where he told supporters:

"Eight years ago today, Chun Doo Hwan and Roh Tae Woo staged a mutiny. . . . They ousted their superior, threatened the president and took power. We cannot forget that night of terror. One of them (Chun) became our president and the other is now running for president."

Roh Backed Takeover

In the Dec. 12, 1979, mutiny Roh, then head of the 9th Infantry Division, ordered elements of his command into Seoul to back the overthrow of the armed forces chief of staff. Five months later, on May 17, 1980, Chun, with Roh's support, took power in a coup.

Kim's main opposition rival, Kim Dae Jung, campaigning in the central city of Taejon, accused Roh of plotting with Chun and other generals to provoke an insurrection in the city of Kwangju the next day, May 18, by brutally attacking demonstrators protesting Chun's coup. Suppression of the demonstrations and subsequent insurrection was designed "to rationalize their illegitimate takeover of power," the leader of the Party for Peace and Democracy declared in a statement.

The third major opposition candidate, Kim Jong Pil, told a rally here in the capital that Roh "was one of the key figures who masterminded the so-called Dec. 12 incident of 1979," which he said "blocked the progress of the nation and smeared its constitutional history."

All three Kims accused the ruling party and its presidential candidate of planning to steal Wednesday's election by fraud. Kim Jong Pil demanded that Roh withdraw his candidacy immediately for what he called "deceitful electioneering."

In other developments Saturday:

--The Defense Ministry admitted that a 21-year-old corporal died of barracks violence on Dec. 4 but denied the charge of Kim Dae Jung's party that he was beaten to death for voting for Kim on an absentee ballot.

A Defense Ministry spokesman said the soldier, Chong Yon Gwan, was shoved by a superior in a disciplinary dispute and suffered fatal head injuries when he fell. The spokesman called it a "pure accident."

A fatality at the hands of authorities, the police-torture death of a university student last January, was a leading cause of the student unrest that led to June's nationwide demonstrations and President Chun's grudging acceptance of Wednesday's direct presidential elections, South Korea's first in 16 years.

--Police raided 31 university and college campuses in Seoul and neighboring cities Friday night to deter possible student protests at Roh's big Saturday rally in the capital. Searching student halls, club offices and other facilities, officers seized nearly 900 gasoline bombs, iron rods, political leaflets and other materials.

Seoul Police on Alert

In Seoul, police were put on maximum alert and 21,000 riot policemen were deployed at rally sites. A planned rally protesting the Dec. 12, 1979, mutiny was banned, and hundreds of green-uniformed riot police patrolled the site throughout the day.

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Chung Ho Yong announced that he has ordered a military alert to guard against any move by the army of Communist North Korea to disrupt the election. Western diplomats said earlier in the week there had been no sign of unusual movements north of the demilitarized zone that divides the two Koreas.

--Kim Jin Ki, a former army provost marshal who lost his job in the wake of the 1979 mutiny, joined Kim Young Sam's party. He was the second major military figure of the incident to throw in with Kim. The first was Chung Seung Hwa, the army chief of staff ousted by the mutiny.

A fourth candidate campaigning Saturday, dissident Paek Ki Wan, told a rally of student supporters that he intends to withdraw before election day because his initiative to get Kim Young Sam and Kim Dae Jung to agree on a last-minute, single opposition candidacy has failed.

Minor Candidate Withdraws

Meanwhile, a minor candidate, Kim Son Jok of the Unified Democratic Party, pulled out of the race Saturday and threw his support to Roh, reducing the field to six.

One of the more controversial statements of the day came from Kim Dae Jung, who said that about 1,000 civilians were killed by the military in the 1980 Kwangju uprising, attributing the figure to former U.S. Ambassador William Gleysteen, who headed the American Embassy here at the time. Kim is a native of the Cholla region, and he has made the 1980 killings in Kwangju, the region's principal city, a centerpiece of his campaign against military-dominated government here.

Roh's ruling Democratic Justice Party immediately demanded that Kim produce evidence for his charge. The government puts the figure at 194.

Gleysteen told reporters here on a visit last January: "We talked to everybody, and I think our conclusion was that we couldn't really tell. But that at the time . . . it seemed for sure that the number was not more than 1,000. Maybe more than 200 but less than a thousand."

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