South Korean President Chun Doo Hwan is now assured of a further seven-year term in office -- not that there was ever any doubt who would win. Most South Koreans considered the election a foregone conclusion which had been carefully planned months ago. When the voters went to the polls Feb. 11 to choose a 5,278 -member electoral college, they voted more than two-thirds of the seats to the Democratic Justice Party (DJP), of which Chun is the leader and presidential candidate.
One newspaper, the English-language Korea Times, even went onto the streets with the headline "Supporters of Chun sweep vote for electoral college" two hours before the vote- counting had begun.
Opposition leaders have conceded that the final stage of the presidential election, in which the electoral college will choose the new president on Feb. 25, is now merely a formality. Under the terms of President Chun's constitution , voted in by a referendum last October, the new president will only need a simple majority.
Certainly the President's reception on his recent return from the United States was more like a coronation ceremony than a simple welcome home after just 11 days away. Thousands of people were required to line the streets and were given banners, flags to wave as he passed, and confetti to throw. His drive from the airport to his residence, the Blue House, was televised throughout the nation.
Although President Chun stepped in and took control of the country with the help of the Army and imposed Draconian measures last year when the country was in turmoil following the assassination of President Park Chung Hee, he has lately tried to project a gentler image. He has promised to restore democracy to the republic and to allow greater freedom as long as domestic stability is maintained.
He has also promised that there will be a peaceful transfer of power and fair elections, although his critics point out that he has already had an unfair advantage in the present election campaign because of the intense publicity he has received in recent months.
Chun's supporters really could not have lost the electoral college election. The DJP put up over 4,500 candidates, nearly half the total number in the running for the electoral college. And although some 3,000 candidates were running as independents, it was known that most of them were also Chun supporters. The opposition was only able to muster a total of about 1,500 candidates, most of whom represented the Democratic Korea Party.
In the final result, the DJP won 3,676 seats -- 69.6 percent -- of the electoral college and the independents followed with 1,123 seats. The three opposition parties lagged far behind, gaining only 479 seats between them.
But a turnout of over 78 percent of the electorate on Wednesday and the sweeping victory by the DJP suggests that most South Koreans prefer to go along with Chun -- who must now be called Korea's "political strong man" -- than risk further upheavals under th e weak and disorganized, if more liberal, opposition.