The other Kim: Korea opposition leader shares limelight
Seoul — KIM Young Sam has a deep, mellifluous voice. Unlike many South Korean politicians, he speaks in concise, pointed sentences. It is a voice and a style of speaking that the Korean people have not heard in nearly five years. And yet five years of silence have not dimmed Mr. Kim's fame as a leader of South Korea's political opposition, second perhaps only to Kim Dae Jung. Kim is a common name in Korea, and the two men are not related.
Kim Young Sam is banned from all political activity in South Korea, purportedly for his role in the political chaos of the 1970s.
He does not appear on radio or television. The newspapers report only occasional police action against him and sometimes a meeting he holds or his connection with other opposition politicians. Kim was detained at his home six times in January to prevent him from attending political meetings.
``Even when I tried to visit my father for New Year's greetings, and to visit the ancestral graves, they detained me at Kimpo Airport,'' he said in an interview. ``Several hundred people were mobilized to arrest me. They kept me for 51/2 hours, and continued for three days more at my house. I really can't understand what they think they are doing.''
Kim is a lifelong politician. After graduating from college in 1951, he immediately found work as a secretary to the Korean premier. He ran successfully for the National Assembly from a district in the southern port city of Pusan in 1954, at the age of 27.
He rose to national prominence in the 1960s as floor leader of the now-defunct New Democratic Party. In the 1970s, as president of the party, he led what some say was a brilliant and courageous attack against the government of the late President Park Chung Hee. That attack contributed to the weakening of the government.
Kim is awaiting -- with probably more than the usual anticipation -- the planned return of Kim Dae Jung today.
As chairman of a welcoming committee for Kim Dae Jung, he plans to greet him at the airport, but thinks the police will detain him again. ``This government would never allow it to come out in foreign newspapers that the two of us shook hands together.''
Kim Dae Jung and Kim Young Sam shaking hands and working together is, indeed, a new development.
Even though the two men have consistently fought against the government, and even though their ideas about Korean politics and society are similar, they have been intense rivals in the past.
After President Park was assassinated in October 1979, the two Kims fought bitterly in hopes of winning the presidency. Many people say that their unbriddled competition gave the military the excuse it needed to step in and take power in May 1980.
The two Kims differ considerably in their styles, and in their political bases -- factors that contributed heavily to their conflict. Kim Dae Jung is a man who ignites passion, who can stir crowds and inspire intense loyalty. These talents frequently earn him the label of ``demagogue'' among his critics.
``Kim Young Sam is an organization man,'' says a diplomat. He is a man who builds coalitions and bargains, as well as speaks out. These political skills have made Kim's political loyalties slightly suspect in the minds of some Koreans.
But Kim Young Sam successfully dispelled many of these doubts in the spring of 1983, when he staged a 23-day hunger strike to demand that the government lift all political restrictions against him and other banned politicians, lift controls on the press, and make constitutional changes to allow the direct election of the president.
Kim was close to death by the time his supporters persuaded him once again to take food. He succeeded in having the house arrest order against him lifted. But more importantly, the hunger strike shocked the opposition out of complacency and led to the creation of an umbrella organization that for the first time drew together disparate elements of the political opposition.
Kim Dae Jung led marches in Washington to express support for Kim Young Sam's demands.
The two Kims now co-chair the Council for the Promotion of Democracy, which has played a large role in the founding of a new outspoken political party, the New Korea Democratic Party, in December. Kim Young Sam says the rivalry from the past is over.
``When Kim Dae Jung comes here we will work hand-in-hand together. Now it is totally different from the past; it is not important who will be president. If I can just do my best for democracy, I'll be satisfied.''
Still, few observers believe the two men will ever be comfortable sharing the limelight.
Kim Young Sam does not hold out much hope of working with the government of President Chun Doo Hwan. ``There is no room for even considering working together with this unjust, illegitimate, and immoral regime.''
A broad spectrum of Koreans, of course, do accept the government's legitimacy. It is impossible to determine how many Koreans would agree with Kim.
He also does not think much of the widely accepted international belief that Korea has undergone a gradual but very meaningful process of liberalization.
``This regime is extremely good at managing its public relations by lying to the people and to the international community,'' Kim charges. ``International opinion has been cultivated with these lies.''
The answer, says Kim, is to struggle. ``Our country has never had a dictator who admitted on his own that he had taken away the people's freedom and that he should give it back as a favor. Democracy is something that has to be fought for and won. If you don't fight for democracy you can never have it.''
Kim also dismisses the stunning economic growth in Korea that has earned it kudos both domestically and abroad.
``There is no one who says that pigs are fortunate just because they eat well and sleep well,'' he says.
Kim believes that Korea's very large foreign debt, $43.1 billion at the end of 1984, is a sign of economic mismanagement.
Bankers and economists widely believe that Korea can successfully manage such a large foreign debt, but the size of the debt, which has made Korea the fourth largest debtor nation in the world, has become a heated domestic issue.
Kim also says there is a large class of Korean laborers who live in extreme poverty, and at the same time large business groups have increasingly dominated the Korean economy.
``What does this mean?'' he asks. ``All the economic policies are for the big business groups. The rich are becoming richer and the poor are becoming poorer.''
To some extent the Korean government has conceded this point and says it is trying to rectify the problem.
Kim is pessimistic about Korea's future just now.
``In this election,'' he says, ``Mr. Chun Doo Hwan nominated his own family members, nominated secretaries of the ruling party, those with military backgrounds. When I see this, I think the talk of a peaceful transfer of power in 1988 is a lie.''
President Chun has repeatedly promised to step aside in 1988 to allow for the first peaceful transfer of presidential power in Korean history. Kim is strongly anticommunist. And he believes that a full democracy in South Korea is the best way to promote dialogue with the North. Then, he says, North Korea will have no excuse to walk away from the talks.
``Doing things democratically is the best way to beat North Korea. When the government receives the support of the people, that is a powerful weapon to beat communism.''
For the time being, Kim welcomes American military support for Korea, to protect it from the communist north. (More than 40,000 American troops are stationed in South Korea.) But he cautions the United States not to display such strong support for the Chun government.
``If America makes that mistake, it will give rise to anti-Americanism. We should take a lesson from the tragedy of Vietnam, the tragedy of Nicaragua, and the complete ruination of the Philippines. We should remember this.''