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S. Korea Election Dissenter Starts Hunger Strike

December 25, 1987|From Times Wire Services

SEOUL, South Korea — A dissident leader began a hunger strike Thursday to protest alleged fraud in last week's presidential election.

The Rev. Moon Ik Hwan said before starting the indefinite hunger strike at a monastery in Seoul that the opposition should not abandon its efforts to nullify the Dec. 16 election.

"Our historic task is to ascertain all cases of election fraud despite public criticism over the opposition's failure to field a single candidate," said Moon, a 69-year-old Presbyterian minister.

Government candidate Roh Tae Woo defeated a divided opposition in the fist direct presidential elections in 16 years. Roh won about 36.6% of the vote, while Kim Dae Jung and Kim Young Sam divided the 55% of the votes cast for the main opposition candidates.

Moon and other opposition leaders have charged the government with cheating to win the election. Students and dissidents have staged scattered protests that have drawn little attention.

2 Kims Have Apologized

Many South Koreans blame the two Kims for failing to agree on a single candidate and splitting the opposition vote, and regard the fraud charges as an excuse. Both Kims have apologized to the nation for the dual candidacy. There has been no proof of widespread fraud.

Roh, a former general, is scheduled to take office Feb. 25 when President Chun Doo Hwan steps down in what would be the first peaceful transfer of power in modern South Korean history.

In Taegu, South Korea's third largest city 150 miles southeast of Seoul, 20 people who worked as voluntary election watchers for the opposition were on the third day of a hunger strike in a church. The domestic Yonhap News Agency said the group put up a placard saying, "We will become martyrs refusing to accept the results of a rigged election."

Seoul was peaceful Thursday for the first time in a week. Huge crowds flocked to department stores for Christmas shopping.

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