South Korea's military government today launched a campaign to broaden the public appearance and indicated that it is preparing to move against public corruption.
Local officials were urged to stimulate late broad popular trust of the central government and reports in the censored press promised a government investigation into corruption in high places.
Both elements were seen as part of a campaign by the military-dominated government to enhance its prestige and broaden its base of support among South Korea's 37 million icitizens.
It now rules by martial law edicts imposed last month and it has suspended all the democratic reforms begun by the civilian government in power after the assassination last fall of president Park Chung Hee.
The campaign is being publicly spearheaded by Acting Prime Minister Park Choong Hoon, who was installed by military leaders who took command in mid-May. They are trying to perpetuate the appearance of civilian rule.
Park opened the campaign with remarks to more than 100 provincial governors, prosecutors, and educators at a meeting in the capitol building.
He urged them to help "create an atmosphere of trust" in the central government and to support efforts to maintain "social stability." Without those elements, he said, South Korea can have neither economic progress for political development.
Meanwhile, the hints of a war on corruption emerged in the form of press comments by unidentified officials who were quoted as saying that dishonest public servants would be removed from office. They reportedly were preparing to investigate officials who have allegedly used their public positions to advance their personal interest during the recent period of instability and social unrest.
The anticorruption campaign is to be waged by a new government group called the Social Purification Subcommittee, one of several new arms of the organization that is running the country under direction of generals who seized power on May 17.
The rapidly multiplying number of committees and subcommittees are all being directed by Lt. Gen. Chon Doo Hwan and two associates.
Ever since they and other generals seized power within the military establishment last December, there have been intermittent reports that they planned an anticorruption crusade. They are admirers of the late president Park and have periodically attempted to justify their moves by asserting that he had come to be surrounded by corrupt military leaders and public officials.
They have also hinted at a purge of allegedly corrupt businessmen and political leaders who, in their phrase, "accumulated great wealth through illegal means." But despite repealed threats, no businessmen have been arrested and only a small number of political leaders have been seized on that charge. The most important is Kim Jong Pil, president of the Democratic Republican Party, the former government political grouping and long a close friend of president Park.
The current campaign to generate public support for the government is being waged by giving maximum visibility to civilian figureheads and minimum publicity to the generals. The press, which is censored by the martial law command, gives extensive coverage to remarks by both acting Prime Minister Park and President Choi Kyu Hah. Until the past few days, Choi rarely has been seen in public since the May 17 military takeover and rumors had spread he was under some form of house arrest.
The appearance of public support is being advanced by a number of paid advertisements in newspapers sponsored by military-related organizations, such as the Korean Wounded Veterans' Association. Police organizations and some business groups are also publishing what amount to testimonials for the present government.
The country is nominally being governed by a 25-member special committee headed by Choi.But real power rests with that organization's standing committee, which is headed by Gen. Chon. His two associates on that standing committees are Maj. Gen. Ro Tae Woo, commander of garrison forces guarding Seoul, and Maj. Gen. Chung Ho Yong, commander of the Army's special forces.
Their standing committee, in turn, has spawned 13 subcommittees that will direct operations of all phases of government, from police of foreign affairs.