SEOUL, JUNE 30 (TUESDAY) -- South Korean President Chun Doo Hwan this morning appeared close to giving formal approval to virtually all opposition demands for ending a three-week political crisis and implementing democratic reforms.

At the start of a round of high-level meetings, ruling party Chairman Roh Tae Woo conferred with Chun for 70 minutes to urge official acceptance of the demands, which include direct presidential elections. Roh said yesterday that this was the "people's will."

No details of their discussions were immediately available. But state radio said afterward that "it seems President Chun will accept Mr. Roh's proposals." Officials here made similar predictions. Approval of the changes would be a dramatic reversal of long-standing government policies.

Later today, Chun planned to meet with his Cabinet, the heads of the judicial and legislative branches and a council of political advisers. He is scheduled to announce a formal decision on television at 10 a.m. Seoul time Wednesday {8 p.m. Tuesday EDT}.

Most political analysts here felt Chun had already made up his mind but was going through the motions of consultations to provide a public rationale for a remarkable turnabout.

Yesterday morning, Roh went on television and stunned South Koreans by saying he would urge Chun to accept the opposition demands. Later in the day, the ruling party's caucus and central executive committee met and endorsed Roh's plan. Press and public reaction was also overwhelmingly favorable.

These developments and various officials' predictions appeared to set the stage for formal approval by Chun. "It's been broadcast on TV and printed in the newspapers," said one South Korean political analyst. "It's a fact. No one can change it, including Mr. Chun."

{The Reagan administration, which was taken by surprise, hailed Roh's announcement as a breakthrough toward "a full-blown democracy." Members of Congress also praised the plan during a House debate on a resolution urging moves toward democracy in South Korea.}

No major demonstrations were reported in Seoul or other cities yesterday, suggesting that Roh's announcement was having the desired effect of calming three weeks of street protests that have presented the Chun government with the most serious challenge in its seven-year existence.

The protests began June 10 when Chun chose Roh, a former Army general, to be his successor under the present method in which the president is elected by an indirect electoral college system. The opposition has charged that this system is open to manipulation and designed to perpetuate Chun's control.

After making his proposal yesterday, Roh visited the National Cemetery and, traveling 70 miles from Seoul, a monument to Adm. Lee Sun Shin, a 16th century hero of Korean independence. Officials said he felt he was taking part in historic events and wanted to pay respects to national heroes.

In a gesture of conciliation, he went to a hospital to visit a student demonstrator who has been in a coma since being hit by a tear gas canister three weeks ago. He also called on riot policemen injured during the demonstrations.

Direct presidential elections have been at the center of opposition demands for the last two years and until now were rejected by the government party.

Roh also has endorsed another key opposition demand that his party had long resisted: restoration of the political rights of dissident leader Kim Dae Jung.

The immediate purpose of the steps is to end the street protests. But Koreans see them as having the more far-reaching impact of establishing democracy in what is now basically an authoritarian system.

Party members had been discussing many of these steps in recent days. But few were prepared for Roh's statement yesterday, which came without warning as a meeting of the central executive committee of the party convened.

Still, there was no opposition to Roh's proposal, ruling party members said. "Every lawmaker agreed with him and supported it fully," said Hyun Hong Choo, a ruling party spokesman.

Television crews, about to withdraw after filming the convening of the meeting, were told to remain for an important announcement, according to one account. Shortly afterward, it was aired on national television.

In addition to seeking direct elections and rights for Kim Dae Jung, Roh promised to cooperate with the opposition to revise the presidential election law to make elections freer, to release as many political prisoners as possible, to liberalize the press and to prevent human rights abuses.

If Chun does not accept the proposals, Roh has said he will withdraw as the ruling Democratic Justice Party's candidate for president and resign from all other posts, including his party chairmanship.

Some officials said Chun was aware of the basics of Roh's plan, if not the details. "They are in a position to read each other's minds," said party spokesman Hyun.

There was speculation that Roh's seeming unilateral announcement was calculated to put distance between himself and the highly unpopular Chun. Roh would then be perceived as the champion of democracy, in this view. By staking his political career on the proposals, Roh would therefore be more likely to win the respect of the middle class and regain credibility and legitimacy for the ruling party.

Opposition leader Kim Young Sam, speaking to reporters yesterday, said Roh "probably" had some sort of advance consent from Chun. Both Kim Young Sam and Kim Dae Jung said Roh's announcement caught them by surprise.

Both opposition leaders appeared unusually upbeat in welcoming the proposals. "Who would have thought that after so many years we could have this kind of happy news that direct presidential elections are being considered?" Kim Young Sam asked reporters.

"I trust what Roh Tae Woo said in his statement. I am sure he in fact will recommend the proposals to President Chun Doo Hwan. I believe President Chun Doo Hwan must accept these proposals," he added.

Both Kims said the street demonstrations of the past three weeks were a major factor behind Roh's announcement.

"I do believe this decision was mainly influenced by our people's strength, which has been expressed since June 10," Kim Dae Jung told reporters. U.S. pressure for democratic change may also have played a role, they said.

Both said they are not planning to run for president. Neither would say who he thought the main opposition party's presidential candidate would be.

Difficult political negotiations still lie ahead, assuming that Roh's plan goes through. It contains only broad principles and there is plenty of room for disagreement and deadlock in working out details.

Kim Dae Jung yesterday raised what he described as a "suggestion" that might develop into a serious obstacle.

Kim said Chun should immediately turn over real decision-making power to a "pan-national cabinet," a coalition of the different parties. Chun would remain as president until his term expires next February but would quit the party immediately. The cabinet would function as a caretaker government, pending direct election of a new president later this year.

Hyun rejected the idea. "We can handle the situation by ourselves," he said. "He's asking too much."

In other reaction yesterday, the group that organized the rally that began the demonstrations -- the National Coalition for a Democratic Constitution -- said it welcomed the decision, even if "it has come belatedly." It called on the government to show its sincerity by releasing all political prisoners.

Prosecutors announced they had freed 219 of the more than 300 people arrested in connection with rallies and not immediately released. However, those arrested in connection with demonstrations Friday are to be considered separately, the government has said.