Despite new warning signals being flashed by opposition politicians, it seems almost certain that South Korean Acting President Choi Kyu Hah will be chosen as a temporary caretaker president to succeed the late Park Chung Hee.
Choi, who was prime minister under Park, has been quietly picking up support for the caretaker role this week, and the only potential opponent bowed from the stage. His selection appears to have the tacit support of military leaders who wield influence under the martial law imposed when Park was assassinated Oct. 26.
So far, the interim government officially announced only that the successor would be chosen by the National Conference on Unification, a vestige of Park's rule. The conference is strongly opposed by antigovernment forces who want a new constitutional procedure established for chosing the president.
But government leaders predict Choi could be elected by that body around Dec. 6. He would serve for about a year with a new Cabinet replacing Park's. At the same time, the National Assembly would prepare constitutional amendments permitting a direct election of the next president, the officials say.
The plan, which began to surface a week after Park's death, is being promoted by progovernment groups as a method of assuring a year of stability while Park's authoritarian constitution is dismantled.
In meetings with members of the national conference, Choi has emerged as the only likely candidate, although technically anyone could run who is endorsed by at least 200 of the 2,561 conference members.
The path was cleared for Choi when Kim Jong Pil, who was close to Park for many years, decided not to contest the election.
Opponents centered in the New Democratic Party yesterday offered a new compromise, offering tacit acceptance to Choi's selection by the conference if he would first establish a broad-based advisory board to work out details of constitutional amendments, the release of political prisoners and other key issues.
Opposition party president Kim Young Sam warned that if such advance consultations were not guaranteed his party would "have no choice other than to struggle against "choi's selection.
His proposal was rejected within 12 hours by Choi who said the advisory group was unnecessary but promised to consult personally with "people from all walks of life."
Kim Young Sam said in an interview that Choi's selection by the National Conference on Unification would lessen stability here, not strengthen it, as the government claims.
Despite the confrontation over selecting a successor, there are indications of compromises being reached on other issues that divided Park's forces and the opposition.
Kim Jong Pil, once Park's closest adviser and considered by many to be the country's future leader, has privately approached the opposition with assurances that the constitution will be modified to eliminate the most objectionable features of the late president's rule.
He has emerged as president of the ruling Democratic Republican Party and its overwhelming choice to govern after the caretaker government.
He privately has impressed some in the opposition camp as being committed to restoring a more democratic rule.
Some discreet signals also have been passed suggesting that many political prisoners will be released as part of the accommodation needed to win broad support for the caretaker presidency.
About 200 persons are in prison for having violated anti-dissent decrees issued by Park. Many are students arrested in campus demonstrations. Government ministers publicly have promised to review those cases and to consider reinstatement in college of those who were expelled for life for criticizing the government.
One minister this week also told opposition legislators in the assembly that the release of the most celebrated political prisoner, Kim Dae Jung, is being "positively" studied.
Released from a prison last December, Kim Dae Jung has been under house arrest most of this year because of his continued criticism of the Park government.