While the military waited impatiently outside the city limits, a citizens' committee and students remained far apart today on a formula that would restore peace to Kwangju without bringing more tragic violence.
In one room of the provincial headquarters, a committee of distinguished citizens discussed the practical bargain it hoped to strike with the marital law command. Things are going well, said chairman Lee Chong Ki, a lawyer. The government has promised not to send the troops back in and other demands are being met, he said, calmly, as if no more troubles would occur.
But one floor below, militant young students who started the uprising here talked of going down in flames. They said there are 6,000 rifles available to battle the troops they are sure will return any day.
"We will fight to the end if the Army comes back in, and we expect them to come in," one student leader calmly told a group of reporters. He said he thought the ammunition would last only one day.
As these views suggest, the students and elders are worlds apart while the military command waits with thousands of troops. The citizens hope desperately for a negotiated settlement. The students, pressing demands the military would never meet, are preparing for a shootout in which they admit many will be killed.
A week ago tonight, rebellion flared when students demonstrated against South Korea's new military rule and paratroopers violently suppressed them, sparking four days of violence in which more than 100 persons were killed.
Since Wednesday, when the troops were driven out of the city, the citizens' committee says it has been negotiating eight demands with the military. The students insisted today that "real negotiations" have never begun. The military has said it will not wait forever.
The guns are the major problems. The military wants them surrendered immediately. The students today disclosed that 6,000 rifles are either in their storage rooms or the hands of "responsible citizens," by which they meant their friends. It had been thought that the students were holding only about 3,500 weapons.
A leader of the student committee today held an impromptu news conference to say that the guns will not be returned unless Lt. Gen. Chon Doo Hwan, a leader of the powerful ruling generals in Seoul, resigns and leaves politics. No one expects that to happen.
The student leader, who actually is a graduate of a local college, declined to give his name in keeping with the committee's insistence on anonymity.
He spoke as if the committee of older citizens were almost irrelevant to the task of making peace. "They are just helpers on the side," he said. "The main force is the students."
The graduate also spoke of the need for "great sacrifices" to gain freedom from military rule. It is natural, he said, for the city elders to take "a moderate" approach. "They are only looking for security," he said. The interests of the students and older citizens are "completely separate" and negotiations have not really begun, he added.
Given the impasse, the scene in Kwangju seems set for another tragic clash. In the central city, armed students controlled the provincial headquarters and other buildings. Youth in stolen helmets and holding automatic rifles guard the gates, their weapons pointed out the windows.
About three miles away, on the military's front line, troops were backed up by three armored personnel carriers with guns pointed toward downtown. Entrance to the city is almost totally blocked and outsiders get in only by wending their way through side streets. The forests on all sides of Kwangju conceal thousands of troops.
The military has set several deadlines for getting all of its guns back, but has not struck yet. It has been able to reclaim only 500 weapons.
While the stalemate continued, the city is still counting the dead and searching for the missing. Today 16 plain wooden coffins were laid out next to provincial headquarters. Some of the lids were drawn back to reveal the faces of the dead.