South Korea's military government launched an effort today to connect Kim Dae Jung, the imprisoned political opposition leader, with the violent antigovernment rebellion last week in the city of Kwangju.
The move came shortly after the ruling generals removed the last vestiges of civilian rule earlier today with a sweeping government reorganization that placed a military-dominated committee in charge of the country.
A report issued by the martial law command asserted that Kim "instigated from behind the scene" the actions of several students who provoked demonstrations in that city.
It was the first public disclosure that the military government may try to hold Kim accountable for the disorders that were finally crushed by troops in a bloody attack early Tuesday.
The government's most powerful general, Chon Doo Hwan, has told groups privately that Kim will be charged with sedition if it is determined that he sparked the demonstrations that led to widespread rioting. Sedtion is punishable by death or life imprisonment.
Kim was arrested on the evening of May 17 at his home in the sudden military crackdown that followed imposition of nationwide martial law and swept up in the dragnet many political leaders and dissidents.
He had strongly criticized military leaders who in turn regarded him as their foremost civilian enemy. Kim had planned to run for president in elections next year and opposition to martial law was one of his main messages in public meetings.
The martial law report released today reviewed the Kwangju uprising and listed Kim as one of the "main elements" behind it.
It stated that one of the students who allegedly instigated others at Chonnam University in Kwangju to rebel had recent contacts with Kim. It asserted that the student, Chung Dong Nyun, had encouraged a student body leader to urge other students to start demonstrations on the morning of May 18, when the troubles began.
Kim is a native of South Cholla Province, where Kwangju is located, and anger at his arrest on the night of May 17 was a major factor in the disorders there.
In accounting for the dead and wounded of Kwangju, the martial law command produced figures that are significantly lower than independent accounts made by news agencies on the scene.
The report said that 170 persons were killed, including 144 civilians, 22 soldiers, and four policemen. The Associated Press has reported that about 290 persons were killed.
The military report also said that 127 civilians, 109 soldiers, and 144 policemen were wounded during the fighting and the final shootout early Tuesday morning when troops regained control of Kwangju.
It disclosed that 730 persons arrested there are still being detained for investigation. Of the total of 1,740 demonstrators arrested, it said, 1,010 have been released.
The lengthy martial law summary of the Kwangju violence also disclosed that more than 1,000 rifles, pistols and machine guns stolen by citizens from military arsenals there were never recovered. Only 80 percent of the 5,401 weapons stolen had been recovered.
There have been rumors that students and citizens were able to keep and hide many weapons after government troops recaptured the city.
Similarly, a large number of rifle bullets, 552 hand grenades, and 3,600 boxes of explosives were taken by students ad citizens, the report stated, and only 70 percent were recovered by government forces.
It was unclear, however, whether the military rulers intend to stage a sedition trial or bring charges against Kim. If charged, he would be tried before a military tribunal.
Today's report asserted that a Chosun University student and 19 other student leaders had met with Kim in April in Seoul. Together with four others, those students later formed a "struggle committee," which joined the students on the streets.
It also claimed that one of Kim's lawyers, Hong Nam Soon, had encouraged a Chosun University student to spread printed material encouraging demonstrations. That student subsequently gave young militants a large sum of money to refuse to surrender stolen weapons, the report claimed.