In a first gesture toward pacifying the rebellious citizens of Kwangju, the government tonight promised to compensate the families of those who were killed or injured in four days of fighting that ended with the forced withdrawal of government troops.
A cabinet committee also promised to reconstruct destroyed buildings and when peace is restored to distribute food and medicines and take steps to avert an epidemic.
At the same time, however, there were reports that government forces were surrounding the city. Reuter reported from Kwangju that the troop reinforcements were armed with jeep-mounted 105mm recoilless rifles and missiles.
Communications were almost totally cut off again and troops sealed off roads leading into the city.
The government's pledge of compensation appeared to meet one of the demands by a Kwangju citizens' committee that today began negotiations with martial law authorities on solving the crisis.
Reports from inside Kwangju said that students were cleaning up the debris of four days of fighting and maintaining order. Hundreds of weapons seized from troops and armories were being collected, although many remained in the hands of citizens.
Food and medicine were in short supply in Kwangju and a system of food-sharing and rationing was informally begun.
The city was rocked by four days of demonstrations and guerrilla warfare early this week as citizens and students battled martial law forces to protest the South Korean military crackdown last weekend.
The entire country is under rigid martial-law with all meetings banned, universities closed, and many prominent political and dissident figures under arrest. There have been no outbreaks of resistance anywhere else in the country.
The death toll reported by the Associated Press after a check of four hospitals rose to 65, and 52 of the bodies were displayed in the city square today. More than 400 injured persons have been counted so far.
The citizens committee, headed by Roman Catholic Bishop Yoon Kong Hee and including prominent citizens and a student leader, began negotiating their demands with martial law authorities this morning and by late afternoon a large crowd gathered to hear the results; but there was no evidence available here than any agreement had been reached.
A statement by the Martial Law Command broadcast over government radio tonight in Kwangju said authorities would not retaliate against Kwangju citizens and would not forcibly reenter the city. It was unclear whether this represented an official response to the Kwangju committee's demands, which also included an apology for the military's alleged excessive use of force and amnesty for all those taken prisoner during the fighting.
A government statement declared that "this state of lawlessness in the Kwangju area cannot be tolerated indefinitely," but gave no indication what measures might be taken if the negotiations failed and the citizens continued to hold out.
The statement also said the government "is waiting for self-restraint on the part of Kwangju citizens and is expecting the voices of reason to persuade the rioters to put aside their weapons."
U.S. Ambassador William Gleysteen met this afternoon with the country's new acting prime minister, Park Choong Hoon, but the subject of their discussions was not disclosed.
In Kwangju, students were organized into teams to collect weapons, remove debris, control traffic, and distribute medicine. An estimated 3,500 guns were seized during the violence and about 2,500 of them reportedly had been voluntarily surrendered at the provincial headquarters.