Gen. Kenan Evren, the leader of the military coup that Prime Minister Suleyman Demirel, is a Korean War veteran and experienced administrator who until now has avoided politics.

A small, soft-spoken, balding man of 62, Evren became Turkey's military chief of staff in 1978. He graduated from the Ankara War College in 1938, held a succession of Army posts and commanded a Turkish artillery regiment in Korea in 1955 after Turkey, a new member of NATO, sent troops to fight alongside U.S. forces. Turkey sent one division to Korea and lost 1,000 men.

Evren became a general in 1964 and ground forces commander in August 1977. He succeeded Gen. Semih Sancar as armed forces chief of staff the following year.

A Turkish diplomat in London described Evren as "a calm, kind man who thinks a lot before he makes a decision." Another diplomat said the coup leader has a strong personality and wields great influence on his fellow commanders.

The English-speaking Evren, who is married and the father of two daughters, has served notice in recent months that the military would intervene if civilian leaders were unable to stop the country's political violence in which about 2,000 persons have died in the last two years.

Apparently it was a step that Evren was reluctant to take. His biographical entry in this year's privately published "Turkey Almanac" ends: "Evren's hostility to any kind of military intervention in politics also appears to many as a comforting quality while the country faces difficult days."