Opposition Alliance Splits Over Presidential Candidate
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) _ The main opposition alliance split Monday over endorsing a candidate for South Korea’s first direct presidential election in 16 years.
Forty-six leading members of the National Coalition for a Democratic Constitution called for a single opposition candidate in a statement that clearly favored Kim Dae-jung over rival opposition leader Kim Young-sam.
″We believe the most important task at this stage is to bring in democracy by overcoming the authoritarian military reign in upcoming elections,″ the group said.
The group did not advocate Kim Dae-jung by name, but endorsed his position. Aides to Kim Dae-jung welcomed the statement as endorsing his candidacy.
But other coalition members and supporters of Kim Young-sam said it represented a minority and did not speak for the coalition.
Opposition supporters have voiced concern that the two Kims’ fight for the candidacy of the major opposition Reunification Democratic Party could brighten the chances of the governing party.
Kim Young-sam is the party’s president and Kim Dae-jung is party adviser. Neither has declared his candidacy, but both have indicated strong intentions of running for president.
The alliance of dissident, civil rights and religious groups led anti- government protests in June that forced President Chun Doo-hwan to accept opposition demands for sweeping reforms. Reforms including replacing the electoral college system, which the opposition said favored the governing party, with direct presidential elections.
The presidential election is set for December.
Chun has promised to step down when his seven-year term expires in February. His Democratic Justice Party has chosen Chun ally Roh Tae-woo as its presidential candidate.
The 46 Kim Dae-jung supporters said Kim Young-sam’s contention that their man must not run because of military opposition was ″undemocratic and outdated.″
Chun, a former general, and military leaders have ruled out any military intervention. But some generals were said to oppose Kim Dae-jung as too radical.
The group said it supported the opposition candidate who has the most public support.
Kim Dae-jung has demonstrated his popularity by holding large rallies. Kim Young-sam has relied more on his position as president of the opposition party.
Meanwhile, Kim Jong-pil, a former prime minister under the late President Park Chung-hee, strengthened his bid to enter the presidential race.
About 3,000 supporters cheered him at a rally Monday when he outlined plans for a new political party. He intends to run for the presidency with the new party to be launched formally this month.
Kim Jong-pil left politics after Park was assassinated in 1979 and the military installed Chun.
Chun vowed Monday in a budget message to the National Assembly to ensure fair elections.
″We know that past direct presidential elections created splits in public opinion and a waste of national power,″ he said. Chun again warned leftists not to instigate unrest.