S. Korean opposition hopes for toehold
Seoul — The Democratic Korea Party (DKP), which expects to be South Korea's main opposition party, hopes to obtain 30 percent of the vote in the indirect presidential election Feb. 11, according to a party official.
The party knows that President Chun Doo Hwan will win the election, said the official, Sohn Sae Il. Mr. Sohn heads the party's special committee on diplomacy and security and is also chairman of its Seoul party branch. Now a member of the partially appointive legislature, he will run for the newly reconstituted National Assembly in the March election.
"If by some chance President Chun should lose the election, there will be another military coup. And no one wants such a thing," Mr. Sohn said.
Mr. Sohn's party is therefore resigned to losing the presidential election but hopes to do well in the National Assembly election. Here, too, however, it faces formidable obstacles.
According to the new National Assembly election law, one-third of the assembly's 276 seats will be reserved for candidates on a proportional representation list. The party that wins the most seats in the 92 constituencies (each constituency has two seats) will automatically be given two-thirds of the 92 proportional representations seats.
In other words, if the government party, the Democratic Justice Party (DJP) wins even one seat more than its opponents in the constituencies, it will automatically be given another 62 seats. This almost guarantees it a comfortable majority in the new assembly.
The new system, however, is an improvement on the existing authoritarian Yushin system, under which one-third of the assembly was simply appointed by the president. Under the new system, the DKP will get at least some of the proportional representation seats. If it outpaces the DJP in the constituencies , it could even be allocated those 62 extra seats, giving rise to a situation in which General Chun would be President but the majority party in the assembly would be in opposition.
Of course the government is expected to take its precautions, scrutinizing every candidate put up by opposition parties. But because the elections, both for the presidency and for the National Assembly, will be first-time elections under a new constitution and election law, no one can be 100 percent certain of the outcome.
Government party sources, for instance, fear that if President Chun wins too crushing a victory in the Feb. 11 indirect election, the voters will then give a large sympathy vote to the opposition parties in the National Assembly election the following month.
That is why the party has instructed local branch chairmen to put up candidates for no more than 70 percent of the electoral college seats. The electoral college will have 5,278 members altogether, who in turn will choose the president Feb. 24. If a majority of the electors chosen Feb. 11 come from the DJP, President Chun's election Feb. 24 will be a foregone conclusion.
At the same time, the DJP does not want the kind of 99 percent victories characteristic of communist elections and of South Korea under the Yushin system. (President Park won all but two of the 2,359 votes cast by the electoral college, then called the National Conference for Unification, in 1972. In 1978, he won all the 2,577 votes cast.)
From the opposition party's perspective, a 30-percent share of the presidential vote will give its candidate, Yu Chi Song, a respectable enough showing, and the party can then concentrate all its efforts on the National Assembly election.
The Democratic Korea Party is the lineal successor to the New Democrats, the chief opposition party during the 18 years of President Park's rule. Both Kim Dae Jung and Kim Young Sam, leading opposition politicians until respectively jailed and purged last May, were members of the New Democrats. Kim Dae Jung was their presidential candidate against General Park in 1971.
The DKP does not include all members of the former New Democrats, for many of the latter were purged and some were jailed along with Kim Dae Jung, whose death sentence was recently commuted to life imprisonment. But "our party includes those former New Democrats who ar e still free and who worked for democracy," says Mr. Sohn.