South Korea's martial law commander today warned the country's politicians against engaging in any activity that might cause social unrest.
Gen. Chung Sung Wha, in a strong warning against diverisiveness, said the martial law command would not tolerate any "indiscreet political instigations" that might lead to social unrest and "confusion."
It was not clear which politicans Chung's warning was directed against, but the statement underscored again the uncertainty about the role the military intends to play in civilian politics.
There has been little overt political activity by either government or opposition parties since the assassination Oct. 26 of President Park Chung Hee.
But both sides have been quietly laying plans to gain influence once martial law is removed and the process of selecting Park's successor gets underway. Park's followers want a quick election under the existing constitution that he had imposed. Opponents want the constitution amended to provide for direct election of a successor.
In a three-point statement issued this morning, Gen. Chung, who is also Army chief of staff, warned against both divisive politics and street demonstrations.
"Our martial law troops, reaffirming that our nation is a lawful nation, will not allow any unlawful demonstration and violence, regardless of the causes, and will never tolerate any indiscreet political instigation leading to social unrest and confusion," he said.
He also asked for public cooperation so that his command could return to its main duty of defending national security as quickly as possible.
Much of the political maneuvering has been around Acting President Choi Kyu Hah, who is being promoted as the country's next elected leader by a group of Park's followers.
Choi is being touted as a reliable, nonpolitical candidate who could enjoy the support of military leaders who share power in the current interim government.
His candidacy is being put forward by some civilian members of that government and some members of the Democratic Republican Party, which Park headed. In private briefings with the Korean press, they have tried to hint that Choi already has the support of military leaders who would have to be consulted on a choice of candidates.
Meanwhile, the interim government made its first move toward better relations with the political opposition by releasing former president Yun Po Sun from house arrest.
Yun, 82, was a frequent and strong critic of the slain president and had been under house arrest for several months.
However, Kim Dae Jung, former opposition leader who was also a strong critic, remained under house arrest. Kim was released from prison last December but has been restricted to his home off and on ever since because he denounced Park as an authoritarian ruler and demanded open elections.
Other activities who had opposed Park said they are still under surveillance by government agents but are subject to fewer acts of intimidation.
The movement to anoint Choi has come from the same politicians and cabinet members who have talked of selecting as Park's successor a statesman-like figure who is known to be politically unambitious in an effort to appeal to military leaders.
Their hope is to have him elected within three months under the existing constitutions by a national conference that last year elected Park. As a gesture to the political oppositon, they propose that the candidate spell out a program of political reform before the election.
However, Kim Young Sam, the head of the opposition New Democratic Party called the government plan unacceptable and said that a "serious and unfortunate situation" would take place if the pro-government forces tried to push it.
Choi is a career bureaucrat who rose to become foreign minister and was picked by Park to become prime minister three years ago. It was in line with Park's habit of picking colorless and unambitious persons for key positions to minimize the chances of a challenger arising.
In press briefings by his supporter, Choi is being described as an unselfish, unambitious man whose man purpose is to realize a "peaceful transfer of power" in the post-Park era.