Statements made by South Korean President Choi Kyu Hah were incorrectly portrayed in yesterday's editions of The Washington Post. In his inaugural speech Friday, Choi declared that the country's armed forces are carrying out their proper role and were operating under an orderly chain of command. Choi's comments referred to the current position of the military, and made no reference to his thoughts concerning the Dec. 12 military uprising.
South Korea's caretaker president today tacitly endorsed the military uprising that last week gave a new group of generals control of the military and influence in the civilian government.
In an inaugural speech, President Choi Kyu Hah declared that the country's armed forces "are carrying out their proper role" and said they are operating "under an orderly chain of command."
The comment was evidence of the new military chiefs' influence over the civilian president, who had been under intense pressure to approve their Dec. 12 'nsurgency.
At the same time, Choi laid out a general timetable for political change, but gave no specific dates. He said a new constitution could be ready in about a year "unless any unespected contingencies arise"
He gave no schedule for holding a new presidential election, however, saying only that he hoped it would be held "as early as possible."
A 60-year-old career bureaucrat, Choi was inaugurated this morning as South Korea's fourth president, succeeding Park Chung Hee, who was assassinated on Oct. 26.
His interim term as acting president was weakened seriously 10 days ago when a group of generals arrested the country's martial-law commander, seized control of the most powerful military posts, and demanded and got three of their choices named to Choi's new Cabinet.
It is known that Choi at first had resisted approving the seizure when his consent was sought in advance by the ring leader, Maj. Gen. Chon Doo Hwan. A high government source has confirmed that Choi consented only after the uprising had succeeded.
During the operation, Chon and his colleagues also violated a longstanding rule by moving troops to secure control of Seoul without the approval of the joint U.S.-South Korean military command.
In subsequent public statements, the new generals have sought to portray their role as adheering to normal procedures. They had pressed Choi to sanction it and his speech indicated that he bowed to their pressure.
He did not refer directly to the uprising, but said: "The armed forces are carrying out their proper role and renewing their determination to remain . . . the foundation of national defense under an orderly chain of command."
On political issues, Choi reconfirmed his promise to remain a temporary caretaker of the government and not serve out the full remainder of Park's term, which would expire in 1984.
But some observers had expected Choi to set out a more explicit timetable for constitutional reform and new elections than he did today. The deadline of "about a year's time" for preparing a new constitution is in line with what he had said before.
But his promise to hold the elections "as early as possible" after the constitution is approved was not the specific pledge that opposition politicians had hoped for.
His general schedule apparently means that both the constitutional referendum and the new presidential election will not take place until 1981. That would satisfy the progovernment Democratic Republican party.
But the opposition New Democratic party had preferred earlier specific deadlines, with the process completed and new elections held in the fall of 1980.
Opposition party members boycotted the inauguration this morning. They were protesting the fact that Choi had been elected by the National Conference on Unification, a remnant of Park's constitution. They had wanted an immediate constitutional amendment to provide for direct election by the people.
Choi made no specific promises on what the constitution would include, saying only that its authors "must adapt ourselves to the changing times and the wishes of the people." He called on the public to "stand above selfishness and narrow political positions" during the process.