A prominent opposition leader today called on President Carter to call off his planned visit to South Korea unless the government here frees political prisoners and discards rules forbidding criticism of its acts.
Kim Dae Jung, a strong critic of President Park Chung Hee's government, clearly was not satisfied with indications from the U.S. government that Carter will push for improvement in Park's treatment of his opponents.
He said in an interview that unless Park's "suppressive rule" is altered first, Carter's visit would serve to bolster the government and, indirectly, its methold against South Korean dissidents.
"Basically, I am eager to see him here," Kim said. "But I could not welcome him under the present situation with hundreds of people still in prison and Proclamation Number Nine still not repealed."
Emergency Proclamation Number Nine is the government's main weapon against political dissent. It forbids all written or oral criticism of the government unless delivered within the National Assembly. Hundreds have been jailed under the 1975 edict and about 200 still are imprisoned for violating it or an anti-communist law.
Kim referred to a March 7 letter from the U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, Richard Holbrooke, containing reassurances that "all major issues, including human rights, will be carefully reviewed for consideration by the two presidents."
Such a promise from an American official-directly to Kim and fellow dissidents, former president Yun Po Sun and Quaker leader Ham Sok Hon-is likely to generate concern in the South Korean government, which does not want to see human rights on the two president's agenda.
Carter is scheduled to come here for a brief state visit July 1, after a summit meeting in Tokyo. The Park government eagerly awaits the visit as proof of renewed American military support North Korea.
But South Korean dissidents are worried that the Carter visit will convey a public impression that the president is satisfied with Park's way of dealing with dissent. They are hoping for some signs of public disapproval from Carter.
Kim and other dissidents recently made a public statement asserting that a similar visit here in 1974 by former president Ford conferred broad approval on the Park government because Ford refrained from criticizing the tough restrictions on political opposition.
Kim said he would welcome Carter's visit only if it occurred in a "good situation," which he described as one in which prisoners have been released and the anti-dissent proclamation repealed.
There has been speculation here that Carter might attempt to arrange a meeting with Kim as a demonstration of his administration's support for human rights in countries governed by authoritarian leaders. Kim said he has had no indication such a meeting would be arranged and a U.S. Embassy spokesman said the president's plans for the Seoul visit are "not known."
Kim, 54, was released last December after having served 33 months of a 5-year prison term for having signed an anti-government manifesto. Despite warnings from prosecutors that he may be jailed again, he has persisted in his criticisms. He has formed a new political organization, the National Alliance for Democracy and Unification, with Yun and Ham.
Kim spends most of his time in his small home in central Seoul, which is watched around the clock by plainclothes police. He has been called for questioning by the Seoul district prosecutor three times since his release. The most recent was May 7, when he and the other two party founders were questioned for four hours about their statement demanding that the government repeal Proclamation Number Nine.