South Korea's National Assembly convened a week ago amid discord caused by a crackdown against antigovernment activists, including the indictment of two legislators from the leading opposition party.
It was the 276-seat assembly's first regular session since South Korea's opposition movement revitalized itself by sweeping major cities in elections in February.
The opening was delayed by almost three weeks as floor leaders haggled over the fate of the indicted New Korea Democratic Party members, who are accused of inciting campus unrest. The party had tried unsuccessfully to get the charges dropped.
During this session, which opened Oct. 12 and is expected to last two months, the opposition party is focusing on getting a constitutional amendment for the direct election of the president. The ruling Democratic Justice Party of President Chun Doo Hwan wants to limit talks to budget and taxes, considered relatively tame issues here.
The South Korean constitution provides for election of the president through an electoral college. The opposition, which contends that this leaves the results open to manipulation, is demanding a change in the constitution. The government party strongly opposes such a change.
Chun has promised to step down in 1988, when his seven-year term expires. His party argues that the constitution should not be touched, so that this first peaceful transfer of power in South Korea's history can be achieved.
In the current assembly session, opposition lawmakers also will campaign to restore the full political rights of dissident Kim Dae Jung. He remains barred from party or public office, although he is a de facto leader of the New Korea Democratic Party.
The session begins as radical students are keeping up pressure on Chun's government with constant street protests that often turn violent. A crackdown in recent months appears to have had minimal effect in limiting the protests.
Chun's government moved away from a policy of conciliation this summer after students occupied the U.S. Information Service library in Seoul. Twenty of them later received prison sentences ranging up to seven years.
In recent months, police have repeatedly raided campuses, confiscated literature and arrested students and other dissidents.