Kim Dae Jung formally inaugurated his new Party for Peace and Democracy yesterday before thousands of wildly cheering supporters. The party's first order of business was the nomination of Mr. Kim as its candidate in the Dec. 16 elections for president of South Korea. At this point, the involvement of Korea's military in the political system is emerging as the central issue of the campaign. The two leading opposition candidates, Kim Dae Jung and his former ally Kim Young Sam, have focused their attack on ruling party candidate and former general, Roh Tae Woo, as the representative of a continued military role.
``We are standing at the crossroads of history where we either fall into the trap of prolonged military rule or we open a new age that will lead to peace and unification,'' Kim Dae Jung told more than 3,000 party delegates.
At his party convention at the beginning of the week, Kim Young Sam pulled off what one Korean analyst called a ``political coup.'' In a surprise move, Chung Sung Wha, a former Army chief of staff deposed in 1979 by the leaders of the current government, appeared before the meeting to endorse Kim Young Sam. Mr. Chung attacked President Chun Doo Hwan, a former general, and his military supporters as ``political soldiers.''
The endorsement has stirred controversy over Mr. Roh's role in the Dec. 12, 1979 de facto coup, which lead to Mr. Chun's installment as President. Roh has defended himself against charges that he illegally moved troops from a frontline division into Seoul that night, endangering national security.