Kim Dong Ri, a prominent elderly South Korean novelist and teacher, put his pen to work this week in defense of Tongsun Park, the fugitive lobbyist who is wanted in Washington.
Kim had read the grand jury indictment accusing Park of spending money to influence congressmen as an agent of the South Korean government. His reaction was one of sympathy for a native patriot.
"I had a feeling that his lobbyist activities were not for his personal interest but for the interest of this nation, a cause that deserves our endorsement." Kim wrote in a leading Seoul newspaper.
"His activities must be given generous interpretation. American's respect for human rights must be extended to Park."
Such defense of Park and approval of the government's refusal to turn him over to U.S. authorities are common in Seoul. Not everyone is as ardent as the novelist, who seems to favor anointing park a national hero, but a nationalistic campaign is under way to defend his right to stay here indefinitely.
How much of it is genuine and how much whipped up by the government is difficult for foreigners to measure. President Park Chung Hee's government is able to guide or control most expressions of public opinion here, and it is eager to depict the affair as a grave case of national sovereignty instead of a grimty exercise in alleged influence-buying.
Officially, the Seoul government insists that no matter what the indictment says, Park acted alone without government direction when he was in Washington. To hand hime over for investigation, it contends, would betray Park's rights and South Korean sovereignty. The notion that the government's main interest is in preventing Park from spilling its secrets is quickly brushed aside.
A high government official, one of the few willing to talk about the case to outsiders, declared with an uncharacteristic touch of emotion that South Korea would never "prositute" itself by caving to U.S. demands and handing Park over.
It would make no difference, he said, if Congress voted down the $2 billion package of military assistance proposed to compensate South Korea for the withdrawal of U.S. ground forces over the next four or five years.
Surrendering Park to avoid losing military aid, he asserted, would mean perpetuating South Korea as a kind of vassal state dominated by the United States. "We would become another South Vietnam," the official said.
The American insistence on interrogating an unwilling foreign citizen, he added, is an exercise in "great-powerism," an example of a large, powerful coountry's overlooking the sovereignty of a smaller one. It's is not a case of maliciousness, he said, just insensitivity.
Most of Seoul's newspapers have eagerly joined the campaign to wrap the Park case in the national flag. One carried a letter from a progovernment representative who wrote: "The federal jury indictment describes the Korean government as the mastermind and Park Tongsun as its henchman. Does this indictment mean that the U.S. court is going to try a sovereign foreign government as a defendant?"
Another paper displayed prominently a Japanese reporter's view that a strong anti-American sentiment will be aroused if the United States continues to press for Park's return to Washington.
The same paper, Hankuk Ilbo, printed a lengthy criticism of the United States by a poet, Lee WonPoong.
"Suppose Park actually did what he was alleged to have done," the poet wrote. "It seems to me that there was no more malicious intent involved than to influence American policy in a direction favorable to Korea."
Western diplomats read such expressions of nationalistic sentiment - whether stimulated by the goverment or not - as signs that President Park will not give in. perhaps, they say, some ingenious compromise will yet be arranged. For now, they doubt it.
"I don't see any daylight at all," said one diplomatic observer with first-hand knowledge of the government's rigid posture.