YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Vote Fraud Would Renew Major S. Korea Protests, Kim Dae Jung Warns

December 14, 1987|NICK B. WILLIAMS Jr. | Times Staff Writer

SEOUL, South Korea — Populist presidential candidate Kim Dae Jung, rousing a teeming crowd at his final major rally, warned Sunday that election fraud by the ruling party would return massive demonstrations to the streets of South Korea.

The 63-year-old opposition leader, his voice hoarse from the hard campaign for Wednesday's presidential contest, called on authoritarian President Chun Doo Hwan and Roh Tae Woo, his handpicked ruling party nominee, to abandon what Kim charged were plans to steal the election.

"Look at the many people here," he demanded, standing on a huge yellow speaker's stand above a crowd estimated at more than one million. "Surrender to their will. If you don't and if you continue to rig the election, the people who rose up in June will rise again.

"You will go the way of Syngman Rhee and you will become another Choi In Kyu."

'A Warning'

Kim labeled his message a "stern warning."

The dictatorial Rhee, South Korea's first president, was driven from power by student demonstrations in 1960, and Choi, his home affairs minister, was executed by the successor regime of Prime Minister John M. Chang for election manipulation under the Rhee government.

Kim accused Roh's campaign workers of buying with cash and free food a massive crowd that heard the ruling party candidate speak Saturday in Seoul. He ridiculed the "forced" turnout as a "third-rate comedy."

Responding to charges of fraud by Kim Dae Jung and his opposition rival, Kim Young Sam, a spokesman for Roh's ruling Democratic Justice Party, declared:

"The two Kims, realizing they're fighting a losing game with only three days to go to the election, are showing their unwillingness to submit to the election result."

Watchdog Group

But on the last Sunday of the campaign, the opposition kept the focus on the issue of fraud. At the proposal of the fourth major candidate, Kim Jong Pil, his New Democratic Republican Party; Kim Dae Jung's Party for Peace, and Democracy and Kim Young Sam's Reunification Democratic Party formed a unified watchdog committee to scrutinize the balloting.

An official of the combined effort by the rival opposition groups said multiparty teams will be formed to watch the voting, transportation of the ballot boxes to counting centers and the counting itself. Any evidence of irregularities by the ruling party would be shared, he said.

Kim Dae Jung stirred his followers with a 55-minute speech at a large park on the south side of Seoul. He coupled his warning against ballot fraud with promises to head a forgiving government if elected.

One focus was the 1980 Kwangju uprising and its brutal repression by Chun's military forces, a burning issue with Kim Dae Jung, whose support is centered in the southwestern city of Kwangju and the surrounding Cholla region.

Hate Sin, Not Sinners

"I am asking that the true picture of the Kwangju incident be revealed, that honor be restored to its victims," he declared. "But for the sake of political stability, I will not punish anybody (involved in the suppression) . . . because I don't hate the sinners, though I hate the sin; I don't hate the dictators, though I hate dictatorship.

"I can forgive Roh (then a general and a close associate of Chun) for the Kwangju incident. But at this juncture of the last opportunity to achieve democracy, if Roh intends to become president through unfair elections," he added in an unspecific threat, "I will punish him."

Kim's campaign has alarmed some government and military officials who fear the vengeance of the opposition leader--jailed, harassed and once sentenced to death by the Chun government--if he is elected. But Sunday, Kim vowed that no one had reason to worry. He said that if elected, he would remove Chun's top-level officials and reverse government promotion practices that have discriminated against people from the Cholla region, but he would not prosecute anybody for what he called crimes committed by the Chun regime.

Neck-and-Neck Race

The crowd, constantly interrupting his speech by chanting his name, cheered his repeated pledge to free and restore the civil rights of prisoners jailed for political offenses, "except for Communists."

His followers, filling the grounds and covering the roofs of buildings on the former air force academy site, gave an air of celebration to the afternoon rally. His earlier rallies, no less enthusiastic, had more of an underdog atmosphere. But in the last week, political analysts here have said Wednesday's balloting, marking South Korea's first direct presidential election in 16 years, has become a neck-and-neck race among Roh, Kim Dae Jung and Kim Young Sam.

Cho Yoon Hwong, Kim Dae Jung's campaign manager, surveyed the huge throng and boasted to a reporter that his candidate would pull 10 million votes, at least two million more than the analysts predict for the winner.

Los Angeles Times Articles