The government of South Korean President Chun Doo Hwan, in an apparent bid to consolidate its power base at home and enhance its image internationally, today lifted restrictions on 250 politicians who were purged in a 1980 crackdown.
The government said Chun had decided to restore the political rights of the 250 because they had demonstrated repentance for past activities. In recent months, members of Chun's Democratic Justice Party and opposition politicians have called for relaxation of the political climate.
The presidential amnesty included no prominent political figures. Former premier Kim Chong Pil and Kim Young Sam, former leader of the opposition New Democratic Party, presumably will remain subject to the ban, along with Lee Hu Rak, ex-head of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency, and Chung Il Kwon, who previously served as chairman of the South Korean National Assembly.
The ban was imposed under a law enacted in 1980 that, in effect, barred 567 politicians from taking part in national political life until June 1988. It followed a military crackdown that brought Chun and his military colleagues to power three years ago in the wake of political turmoil triggered by the assassination of then-president Park Chung Hee in October 1979.
Observers here said today's action reflects the increasing confidence of Chun and his desire to help promote political stability by gradually easing iron-clad political controls. They suggested that the government also is hoping to enhance its image abroad in advance of the summit of nonaligned nations in New Delhi in March and a meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union scheduled to be held in Seoul later this year.
Among those freed from restrictions today were Shin Bum Shik, minister of culture and information under Park; Kim Kyong In, ex-member of the opposition Unification Party; and Yu Hyuk In, political secretary to Park.
Chun is believed to be considering restoration of political rights of remaining political figures affected by the ban, but there was no indication of when such action might take place, sources said.
An official of the opposition Democratic Korea Party, who did not want to be named, said today's move is "just a gesture by Chun to show off his 'attempts at restoring' political stability."