Opponents Demand Roh’s Apology for Alleged Surveillance
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) _ Opposition legislators demanded Saturday that President Roh Tae-woo apologize for alleged political surveillance by military intelligence agents.
The nation’s main opposition group, the Party for Peace and Democracy, urged Roh to overhaul the Defense Security Command - the military surveillance unit - and end military interference in politics.
The party also demanded a full explanation from Roh of the alleged activities.
The outcry followed the disclosure Friday of alleged evidence of undercover operations by the command against 1,300 dissidents, journalists, intellectuals and lawmakers from both the opposition and government.
The alleged evidence was revealed by Yoon Suk-yang, a 24-year-old army private who deserted from the security command taking with him classified papers, computer discs and other data.
The data included the names and personal records of ruling party chairman Kim Young-sam, opposition leader Kim Dae-jung and 89 other lawmakers.
The data characterized Kim Dae-jung as ″dangerous, untrustworthy″ and showed that Kim Young-sam and his followers were under surveillance even after his party joined the ruling group in January.
The Defense Ministry said the data and other materials were stolen from the security command, but said such data was kept not for political surveillance but to ″protect those listed from enemies or impure elements.″ The ministry did not elaborate.
The government has two powerful intelligence organizations - the Defense Security Command and the Agency for National Security Planning.
Disgraced former president Chun Doo-hwan, who is in rural exile, headed the command in 1980 when he seized power with other military officers. Roh played a role as an army division commander.
Roh has promised to maintain the military’s political neutrality since he took office in early 1988, but Friday’s revelations forced some to question that pledge.
Both ruling and opposition party leaders demanded that Roh fully account for the military’s surveillance activity. Kim Dae-jung’s party called for a public investigation saying the command was used to bolster authoritarian rules.
Roh captured two-thirds of the legislative seats in January by merging his party with two conservative opposition groups. Opponents claim the merger was an attempt to prolong his rule and gain enough votes to seek political changes.
Political tension has heightened since all 78 opposition members of the 299-member National Assembly resigned in August, charging Roh with railroading bills through the legislature and ignoring calls for reform.
The opposition has refused to return to the assembly and demands elections for a new legislature.