Kim's return: human rights in South Korea

I do believe the United States is facing the crossroads in meeting another situation like that in the Philippines. It may well lead to another Vietnamese-like situation in which domestic turmoil and guerrilla warfare are in effect encouraged in South Korea.

We moderate democrats have worked for three major goals. They are: broad unity among democratic opponents, nonviolent struggle, and moderation. Moderate democrats are also facing a crossroads. Whether we can succeed in persuading angry people not to be radical and impatient but to be moderate and persistent in pursuing our goal is a serious question.

I have been in the United States for fully two years. For the first time in 12 years, I have enjoyed safety and freedom. For 10 years before coming here, I was imprisoned for 51/2 years, under house arrest and surveillance for 31/2 years, and in exile for one year. I was sentenced to death in 1980, when General Chun staged a military coup, on charges the United States State Department called ''far-fetched.'' I have escaped death five times in my life - once at the hands of communist forces and four times at the hands of dictators. In view of the freedom and safety I have enjoyed in this country, many ask why I should return to face prison, house arrest, or even greater danger. The reasons for my return are very, very clear and urgent.

One is to participate in the ordeals and struggles of our people. Another is to encourage the majority of the people who really don't like the present dictatorship but are reluctant to take part in efforts for the restoration of democracy. . . . A third reason for my return is to comfort radicals, to persuade them to be moderate and patient, and to discuss the issues with them.

You may ask how I may maintain discussion with radicals or pursue other goals if I am put in prison or placed under house arrest. The fact is that my return itself will be a most persuasive and emotional message to our people. They already know that I have long urged them both in Korea and here to seek the goals of a broad unity, nonviolence, and moderation.

I am not merely pursuing a struggle against military government. Dialogue with the regime is also important. It will be a first step after my return to Korea. I very much want to resolve the present political deadlock with peaceful and orderly means.

This can best be done through dialogue with the Chun government.

At this critical moment what I am asking of you American friends is not that you restore democracy in our stead. Democracy should not be handed over by others but gained by our people's commitment, effort, and sacrifice. We are asking your government not to support military dictatorship. We are asking you American people to give our people, the Koreans, moral support. Koreans share your belief in freedom, justice, and human dignity under a democratic system.

If you can impress your government to let our people know that it is a real supporter of democracy in Korea, then they, including democratic elements in the military, will be greatly encouraged to restore democracy for themselves. We are eager to restore and promote friendly ties with the United States and Japan if these nations support our goals for democracy and human rights.

Excerpted from a talk before the ''Face to Face'' program of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

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