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U.S. Delegation Finds S. Korea Vote Abuses

December 19, 1987|SAM JAMESON | Times Staff Writer

SEOUL, South Korea — A delegation of U.S. congressional aides and academic experts on South Korea said here Friday that they found election abuses and corruption "deeper than have been reported" by the Korean and foreign press, and they urged the South Korean government to conduct a full investigation of Wednesday's voting.

Jan Kalicki, director of Brown University's Center for Foreign Policy and head of the delegation of eight congressional aides and 10 academics who came here to monitor the presidential vote, made the statement at a news conference.

But the group refused to draw any conclusion as to how widespread the abuses were and whether they had enough impact to upset the 1.94-million vote margin of victory of Roh Tae Woo, President Chun Doo Hwan's handpicked ruling party standard-bearer.

Kalicki, however, criticized the Central Election Management Commission for its "passive, somewhat bureaucratic attitude toward investigating abuses."

"Quite frankly, we were not terribly impressed by the approach of (its) leadership," he said. Such an attitude, he added, is "not consistent with a full and open investigation" of charges.

The observer team, which visited polling places and counting stations in Seoul and five other cities between Tuesday and Thursday, issued a statement saying it was "concerned with the election abuses which we personally witnessed . . . even during our limited stay."

It enumerated these incidents:

-- "In Seoul, Taegu and Taejon, we saw election observers who had been beaten.

-- "In Pusan, we saw a counterfeit ballot.

-- "In Seoul, we saw a sealed ballot box in an illegal location outside a polling station.

-- "In Taegu and Taejon, we interviewed people who reported receiving or being offered money or other gifts to buy or withhold their votes.

-- "In Taejon, we saw a woman outside a polling place with multiple registration cards and official stamps.

-- "In Seoul and Taegu, we saw both uniformed and plainclothes police harassing independent election observers without provocation.

-- "In Taejon, we listened to one of a series of telephoned death threats to an independent election monitoring group."

In addition to the abuses it witnessed, the group said in its statement that "we are concerned by the election abuses which have been reported and corroborated by Korean citizens and monitoring groups."

The statement said the group had received reports of "intrusion by government employees into the election process, gross violation of campaign funding limits, biased media attention in favor of the government candidate, tampering with ballots, and failure to protect the integrity of absentee balloting in military installations."

"We do not believe," it added, "that these abuses have been adequately reported thus far by the Korean and the foreign press."

"We have to wrestle with the issue as to whether this is the tip of the iceberg, or whether these are isolated incidents," Kalicki said. Judging whether the abuses affected the election's result, he added, "is very hard to do . . . on the evidence that you come across."

"We cannot, as a group, give a response" on whether abuses changed the result, he said.

Andrew Semmel, an aide to Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), also declined to offer a judgment on whether the election was fair or unfair.

"Whether or not one personally comes to the conclusion that (the abuses) affect the outcome of the election, the integrity of the process is so important from the point of view of so many Koreans . . . that we believe these issues should be addressed," Kalicki said.

Edward Baker of Harvard's Yenching Institute, an Asian studies center, said that "there is a serious question raised by what we've seen about whether this election represents progress."

On Thursday, Steven Schneebaum, a member of an International Human Rights Law Group delegation, said his group had not witnessed large-scale abuse. However, both of the liberal opposition losers, Kim Young Sam and Kim Dae Jung, contended Thursday that abuses were so widespread that the election should be declared null and void.

Kim Young Sam promised to mount a "national struggle to overthrow the government of President Chun Doo Hwan and Roh," asserting that "they stole 2 million votes from me."

But public reaction, as a whole, has been calm so far, with major newspapers calling for acceptance of the election result. Kim Jong Pil, a conservative opposition loser, acknowledged Roh's victory Thursday.

In Washington, the State Department on Thursday also acknowledged the vote by congratulating Roh and saying that "we look forward to working closely with him." The announcement was made after Secretary of State George P. Shultz consulted with President Reagan.

The State Department also "noted charges of fraud," but said they should be "dealt with by the Korean people, by peaceful means, as fairly and as quickly as possible so that the process of reconciliation can begin."

In Washington, Gaston Sigur, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, told the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs on Friday that while there were cases of voting irregularities, they were insufficient to change the outcome. Sigur repeated the State Department's congratulations to Roh.

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