SEOUL, DEC. 17 -- South Koreans today seemed prepared to accept yesterday's presidential election of ruling party leader Roh Tae Woo as many opposed to the regime focused their wrath and dismay on Kim Dae Jung and Kim Young Sam, the two bitter rivals who split the antigovernment vote and enabled the former general to win a clear plurality.

Some opposition supporters and young politicians even called for an end to the era of the two Kims, who for more than two decades have led the fight against military-dominated regimes. Except for clashes reported in antigovernment strongholds in the home province of Kim Dae Jung, the country remained mostly calm today despite Kim Young Sam's call to overthrow the regime.

"Many people say that the people of Korea prepared a good table with good food -- and these two guys kicked it and turned it over," said Lee Shin Bom, a former student leader and aspiring opposition politician. "I respect their courage and their long-term struggle, but at the last minute they let the people down."

Roh was elected president with a 36 percent plurality. Both Kims, who between them polled 54 percent, claimed that the government had cheated and that South Korea's first election in 16 years should be nullified.

Many Koreans said they agreed that some cheating had taken place. Since a majority opposed the ruling party victory, many also expressed sadness, frustration and a sense that, after years of fighting for increased freedom against authoritarian regimes, a rare opportunity had been squandered.

But many Koreans -- including students and middle-class supporters of the opposition -- seemed more inclined to blame the two Kims for their failure to unite than to take to the streets in renewed protest. Although some students and dissidents seemed certain to stage demonstrations and middle-class response remained uncertain, many former supporters said they had no stomach for fighting now.

"If the election had been completely fair, I think Kim Young Sam would have won," said Park Day Heon, 45, a businessman who voted for Kim. "But now the game is over. We have to accept that. No more fighting, no more chaos in the streets."

President-elect Roh claimed victory today although only fourth-place candidate Kim Jong Pil had sent flowers and conceded. Roh said he expects "a small number of these students or other radicals" to protest his election. But he said that most Koreans will be persuaded that his election was "open and fair."

"I think this kind of demonstration will not get the support of the majority of the people," Roh said, adding that he would try to counter protests with "persuasion" rather than force.

In Kim Dae Jung's home province, police clashed with Kim supporters in several towns, including Kwangju, Sunchon and Mokpo. A western diplomat said he believes the extent to which such clashes escalate will depend in part on the government's ability to respond with restraint.

Roh, who is scheduled to succeed his former Army colleague, President Chun Doo Hwan, Feb. 25, said his first job would be to seek reconciliation.

"As we have seen, this kind of direct election aggravated regional rivalries, conflict between classes, even conflict between religions," he said. "So I think the main task is to heal all the wounds of this bitter campaign."

Many Koreans, who had feared a period of instability no matter who won, said Roh's job will be aided by his margin of victory, which even many cynical voters here believed was larger than the number of votes the ruling party could have stolen. Roh won by almost two million votes out of 23 million cast and, perhaps more important, his support was more broadly based and less regional than that of his rivals.

With 98.9 percent of the vote counted, Roh had 8,225,955 votes, or 36 percent. Kim Young Sam had 6,284,882 votes, or 27.5 percent, and Kim Dae Jung had 6,094,563 votes, or 26.5 percent. Kim Jong Pil had 1,802,166 votes, or 7.9 percent.

Many Koreans, including some who voted against Roh, also seemed willing to give him a chance to show that he is not merely an extension of past military regimes. Roh helped Chun stage a coup in 1979, and Chun has been deeply unpopular ever since.

"There is some expectation for Roh Tae Woo," said a teacher who favored Kim Young Sam. "People would say, let's wait and see -- not happily, but let's just let it pass."

The 29-year-old woman added that, after a tumultuous year, many Koreans are ready for a break. Widespread street protests in June forced Chun to allow yesterday's election, and the campaign featured huge rallies, nasty name-calling and occasional violence.

"People are not going to have any sympathy for anybody who's making chaos now," she said. "People are tired."

The margin of Roh's victory seemed to have stunned, at least for the moment, even his most ardent opponents on university campuses. A demonstration called for today never took place, although students rescheduled it for Friday.

"We're hesitating," one Yonsei University student said. "We don't yet know the exact situation. . . . I think the two Kims will be replaced after this election because of their failure to unify."

Kim Young Sam, at an emotional news conference today, claimed that the government had manufactured 2 million votes. His campaign chairman had put the figure earlier in the day at 3 million.

"I must declare this election null and void," Kim said, "and I urge people to rise up to end the military regime of Chun Doo Hwan and Roh Tae Woo."

Kim Dae Jung also labeled it a "complete mockery."

"It's void," Kim said. "We'll fight against them as we did before, peacefully and nonviolently."

Both Kims were vague about their plans for contesting the election. Despite Kim Young Sam's strong rhetoric, one man close to him said that the leader did not really expect to spark a revolt. Instead, the aide said, Kim was looking toward the National Assembly elections scheduled to take place early next year, warning the government not to commit fraud there.

The extent of cheating in yesterday's election remained difficult to evaluate. Neither Kim presented much evidence, but it was clear from eyewitness reports that some cheating took place.

The fraud apparently included the manufacturing of false ballots, vote-buying and proxy voting for Koreans who have died or moved away. Kim Dae Jung also charged that entire ballot boxes, with 4,000 votes or more inside each, were replaced with boxes that had been prepared earlier with false ballots, although he offered no proof.

In one district of Seoul, Kim Dae Jung supporters occupied a ward office containing what they said was a suspicious locked green metal box of absentee ballots. {Early Friday morning police broke up the demonstration, recaptured the building and apparently seized the box for counting.}

Kim also said the election should be invalid because of unfair practices during the campaign, including the ruling party's financial advantage, the bias of government-controlled television and the "dissemination of black propaganda."

For both Kims, however, the final proof of cheating seemed to lie in their disbelief that the government could win. Unlike Roh, who counted heavily on the organizational power of the ruling party and local officials, the two Kims campaigned through mass rallies; they both drew huge crowds and they both expected to win, aides said.

It defied "common sense," Kim Dae Jung said today, that the candidate "so visibly burdened with universal popular opposition" could "miraculously defeat the other candidate who had received overwhelming popular support wherever he went."

Special correspondent Peter Maass contributed to this report.

Roh Tae Woo...........8,225,955............36.0%

Kim Young Sam.........6,284,882............27.5%

Kim Dae Jung..........6,094,563............26.5%

Kim Jong Pil..........1,802,166.............7.9%