South Korean officials give the appearance of being unruffled by the recent recall of the U.S. ambassador, a symbolic protest against the abrupt expulsion from the National Assembly of an outspoken opposition leader.
"It was not unexpected," said Park Joon Kyu, chairman of the ruling Democratic Republican Party, who led the expulsion movement. "We expected in advance that something like that would happen."
One well-informed official described the view inside the government in similar terms. The Americans have made repeated protests of varying degrees about government actions in the human rights field and one more makes very little difference, he said.
William Gleysteen was recalled for "consultations" by the State Department last week after Kim Oung Sam, head of the opposition of New Democratic Party, was expelled for making a series of remarks critical of the government.
It was the strongest show of disapproval the United States has made to this Asian ally with whom relations are often rocky because of the Seoul's suppression of dissent and its tradition of imposing restraints on critics who violate limits of permissible dissent.
Park said in an interview today he was aware that there would be an adverse American reaction for the purpose of what he called "domestic consumption" in the United States.
As party chairman, Park is directly responsible to President Park Chung Hee, who is also the party's president, and who makes most of its key decisions. Park Joon Kyu organized the tactics of expelling Kim at a meeting last week in the Shilla Hotel here. It was carried out later with the assistance of about 500 police guards who sealed off a room of the National Assembly so that the ruling party and its allies could approve the expulsion without interference by the opposition party.
The chairman denied a widely rumored version of the planning session that asserts a top leader of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency was present. He said a KCIA leader happened to be in the same hotel at the time, as noted by reporters, but did not participate in the meeting.
"Imagination runs before reality," he added, in reference to the reports circulated by reporters here.
Park Joon Kyu said the expulsion was made necessary be certain remarks Kim had made in an interview with the New York Times, one of which implied that the United States should put pressure on President Park.
"To invite the United States to control our sovereignty -- we could not let that go," the party chairman said. "We asked for an explanation, and he never gave it. In all our history no politician ever asked a foreign country to intervene publicly."
Neither the government nor the ruling party has any intention of lifting the censure and expulsion of Kim. One government official today indicated that Kim may be arrested if he makes more remarks inviting American pressure.
The official, who declined to be identified, said, "If he goes to the extreme again he may be arrested.
The party chairman said the expulsion was irrevocably and that Kim would not be permitted back in the National Dassembly unless he is reelected. There will be no elections for five years unless President Park calls a special one, an unlikely possibility.