The photographed on the book-lined wall was inscribed, "To Young-Sam Kim, with warm regards, sincerely, Ronald Reagan." But despite efforts from friendly lobbyists in Washington the veteran of the South Korean political opposition had been incarcerated in his house, forbidden visitors, and kept under constant surveillance by plainclothes security men for nearly a year.
Kim Young Sam, former leader of the now-defunct opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), and this time last year still billed as a likely presidential contender, was put under house arrest on May 20, 1980. He made his last public appearance that the same day when he defied martial law regulations to hold a press conference to call for the lifting of martial law, the release of political detainees, and the return of the soldiers to their barracks.
Last week, with no explanation, Mr. Kim was quietly told by two agents from the Agency for National Security Planning --formerly the Korean Central Intelligence Agency -- that he was free to leave his house.
On the same day the wife of leading dissident Kim Dae Jung received a note from the police telling her that she, too, could now come and go as she pleased. Mrs. Kim, whose only crime appears to be that she is married to Mr. Kim, has been under partial house arrest since her husband was imprisoned last May; she has been allowed out --always under escort -- only to do essential shopping and occasionally to visit her husband, whose death sentence for sedition has been commuted to life imprisonment.
Kim Young Sam told The Christian Science Monitor that he had not been out of his house for a single day since his arrest. His only opportunity to go out had been to go to the polls for the recent elections -- an offer he declined. He had had few visitors, but the ambassadors from the United States, Canada, Australia, and Japan had been to see him, and on one occasion an American journalist somehow slipped past the guards and "stole" an interview.
Sitting on the floor, Korean style, Mr. Kim spoke calmly but firmly. "There is no justice in Korea now, no freedom of the press; there is still political repression."
Asked what he thought of the new opposition party, the Democratic Korea Party , many of whose members formerly belonged to his NDP, he answered, "Who can believe that politics exist in Korea? Who can believe there is any real opposition?"
Mr. Kim, a Presbyterian, said he had passed his time under arrest by jogging round and round his house -- about 2 1/2 miles a day -- practicing calligraphy, and reading. His first outing was to be to church on Sunday -- beyond that he had not made any plans, political or otherwise.
Mr. Kim is still on a list of 567 former politicians banned by President Chun Doo Hwan's government from any political activity for eight years -- a ban Mr. Kim described as "the cruelest method of suppression."
A ministry of Information spokesman, commenting on Mr. Kim's interview, said, "we regret very much that Mr. Kim Young Sam, who voluntarily announced his retirement from politics last year, should make such harsh statements."
with many former politicians banned, with a constrained press and many former opponents of the regime f eeling silence is their best hope of survival, it is difficult to gauge the strength of present dissatisfaction.