Secretary of State George Shultz is scheduled to visit Korea this week, just at a time when, I believe, the Korean-American relationship is at a very important stage.
In the military coup led by Gen. Chun Doo Hwan in 1980, I was arrested and imprisoned. After five years in prison in Korea and in exile in America, I returned home in February of last year. The most shocking thing to me was the cooling off I noticed in the Korean public's feelings toward the United States and the pronounced anti-American sentiments of some elements in Korean society. This year, their anti-America slogans are becoming very pronounced and frequent.
It seems that there are three major reasons for such worsening of sentiment toward the United States. First is the perception, unfounded as it is, that at the time of the coup carried out by Chun and the massacre of citizens in Kwang Ju, the United States acted in support of these activities or at least failed to endeavor positively to block them.
Second, in Korea now, all democratic institutions, such as the press, National Assembly and the courts, have turned into mere tools of the despotic Chun regime. Despair prevails. The general public has no place to turn in order to solve these problems by democratic means. There is a widely held perception that the United States tacitly supports this tyranny.
Third, the U.S. government, Congress, news media and citizens have criticized human rights and the lack of progress toward genuine democratization in Korea. The fact is that all these criticisms have been kept from being reported by the Korean media. On the other hand, the remarks made by U.S. government leaders and some pro-Korean personages in support of the Chun regime are played up in the press. A false impression is thus given to the Korean people that the U.S. government and people all support and tolerate the undemocratic Chun regime.
Even more unfortunate is the fact that we in the political opposition, being concerned about this trend and making efforts to correct it, are blocked from working effectively for that purpose. Our publications are censored by the government. I am prohibited from speaking directly to students and industrial workers. I am constantly under surveillance; my phone conversations are tapped and my mail is censored before reaching me. Those who associate with me are themselves subjected to police harassment.
The political reality in Korea today is that if we fail to remedy the situation soon, there is a great possibility that there may be a drastic deterioration in the political situation and in the Korean people's feelings toward America. How can such a negative development be prevented? The only remedy is a prompt restoration of democratic institutions.
When democratic institutions are established, the freedom-loving Korean people will be able to speak out and participate actively without fear of reprisals. Once this occurs, the influence of radical elements within Korean society will be greatly reduced. Once the popular desires for freedom and justice are satisfied, the root cause of radicalism will disappear.
If the United States supports such democratic developments, our people's current misconceptions concerning the United States will be corrected. Although the absolute majority of our people may criticize U.S. policy toward Korea, continued oppression by the despotic regime provides the best chance for radicals to expand their influence.
Our people are resolved now to put an end to the military dictatorship in the coming presidential elections. This is an absolute commitment. As long as the military dictatorship continues, there will be neither freedom and justice nor national security and peace. Nor will there be the friendly relationship with the United States. If we fail to end the military dictatorship in the presidential elections next year, this nation will be eventually thrown into chaos and toward political polarization. This would clearly present an open invitation for North Korean aggression. Korea could then become another Vietnam.
Democracy is the only path toward stability and security. Democracy is the only way to attain the common interests of Korea and the United States. We are not asking the United States to restore our democracy for us. The restoration of our democracy must be achieved with our own efforts and through our own sacrifices. We have asked the United States for only two things: one is that the United States should unequivocally declare its open and firm support of the great cause of Korean democratization and restoration of human rights. The other is that the commander of the U.S. forces in Korea, who is the commanding general of the Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command, should endeavor to ensure the political neutrality of the Korean Armed Forces. Then, we will take care of the rest.
Secretary Shultz's visit will provide a very important opportunity for Koreans to judge whether U.S. policy toward Korea has really changed since the Philippine elections and the promulgation of the Reagan Doctrine. While the Korean people have great interest in the Shultz visit, some misgivings still linger.
Under a democratic system, compromise is an essential political function and virtue. However, tyranny and democracy are absolute extremes. There can be no compromises between the two unless Chun's regime completely accepts democratization of our nation. The Korean people earnestly desire an end to the military rule which has persisted over the past 25 years. To this end, they believe that constitutional revision is necessary to enable them to pick their president by direct popular vote. The opposition party in Korea is mounting a major, nationwide campaign to urge constitutional revisions to allow for such direct presidential elections. The voting in the February 1985 general election showed a high degree of support for our party's positon on constitutional revision. In rallies that have been held throughout the country this spring, it has become obvious that there is tremendous grass-roots support for such a change.
In a country such as Korea, where there is a total absence of freedom of the press, local autonomy and fair elections, no one can expect a transfer of power with either an indirect presidential election system or the "cabinet responsibility" system. Our people are confident that only through a direct presidential election system can the nation overcome election frauds and other built-in institutional advantages held by the government party.
Corazon Aquino could never have won if she had to face the same conditions that currently confront the political opposition party in Korea. President Chun has now offered a compromise in which the ruling party agrees to move up constitutional revision to before 1988 in return for opposition party concessions on the direct election system. I believe that this would be a great setback for the Korean people. There can be no compromise on how the Korean people should be allowed to choose their own president.
The democratic forces in Korea, which genuinely hope to return to the traditional friendly relationship with the United States, now await Secretary Shultz's visit with both high expectations and feelings of uneasiness.