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Korea’s New Prime Minister Promises Liberalization

February 19, 1985

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) _ Lho Shin-Yong, the former national security chief, was inaugurated as prime minister today and promised to pursue a policy of liberalization and democracy.

Lho spoke at an inaugural ceremony one day after President Chun Doo-hwan carried out a Cabinet reshuffle, naming new ministers to 13 of the 22 Cabinet posts.

The Cabinet changes followed elections that saw Chun’s ruling party retain solid control of the National Assembly, but which also brought the emergence of an outspoken opposition group as South Korea’s second strongest party.

A spokesman for the opposition New Korea Democratic Party, Park Shil, said in a statement that the Cabinet reshuffle ″lacked refreshing aspects so much as to make us wonder whether the government had any genuine determination to reform the national administration, grasping the reality of the situation.″

Lho, a 54-year-old career diplomat and former foreign minister, said he would do his best ″to reflect in government policies the true wishes and voices of the people″ by following Chun’s political philosophy.

The prime minister and other members of the Cabinet are named by the president in South Korea, who holds ultimate authority, but Lho’s inaugural speech took note of last week’s election results and inroads made by the new opposition.

In remarks released by the prime minister’s office, Lho said he will ″endeavor to realize a freer and more lively atmosphere by having democracy, earnestly desired by the people, take root, and also by expanding continuously the policy of liberalization.″

Meeting later with reporters, Lho said of the election that he thought ″the people expressed their desire for political stability and political development through democracy.

″I plan to continue to pursue the policy of openness and autonomy by grasping the people’s true wishes manifested in the elections,″ he said.

Lho, whose most recent job was head of the Agency for National Security Planning, formerly called the Korean Central Intelligence Agency, also said ″we must guard against radical acts that seek only immediate ideals and goals without facing up to the reality.″

In last Tuesday’s elections for the 276-member National Assembly, the newly formed New Korea Democratic Party outpolled Chun’s Democratic Justice Party in the country’s four largest cities, including the capital, Seoul.

Chun’s party holds 148 seats. The new opposition party’s total rose to 68 Monday after an independent joined its ranks.

One of the country’s leading political dissidents and a supporter of the new opposition party, Kim Dae-jung, remained under the equivalent of house arrest following his return from two years of self-imposed exile in the United States.

Kim is under a 20-year sentence stemming from a conviction on sedition charges, and, with 13 other people, remains on a government blacklist barring him from political activity.

Lee Min-woo, president of the New Korea Democratic Party, and five party vice presidents went to Kim’s house in western Seoul today in an attempt to see him.

Party officials said, however, they were barred by police from passing barricades set up on streets leading to Kim’s residence.

Supporters of Kim Dae-jung and another opposition leader, Kim Young-sam, played key roles in the formation of the new opposition party and many hold office in it.

Since Kim Dae-jung returned Feb. 8 to a stormy arrival at Seoul airport, only immediate family members, some foreign visitors and representative s of the foreign media have been allowed to see him.

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