SEOUL -- Gary Hart might have better luck here in his search for forgiveness.
In a recent survey by Monthly Law magazine of 111 National Assembly members, 20 percent reported having had extramarital affairs more than once. Eighteen percent said they had strayed "several times," and 3 percent said they do so "quite often." No margin of error was given.
During last fall's presidential campaign here, South Korean reporters spoke knowingly about the "Gary Hart" factor. One candidate was rumored to have engaged in affairs with well-known actresses, and even his supporters said that such "black propaganda" cost him votes.
In the end, though, the two Kims who lost the election -- opposition leaders Kim Dae Jung and Kim Young Sam -- were hurt less by such propaganda than by the prominent roles played in the campaign by their wives, according to some analysts. Ruling party candidate Roh Tae Woo resisted advice from some aides to show his wife off, too, one official said, and kept her very much in the background, where many conservative voters here believe a wife belongs.
SPEAKING of the two Kims -- actually three, since Kim Jong Pil won 8 percent of the vote -- a recent survey released by the Economic Planning Board showed that, despite what foreigners sometimes think, every other South Korean is not named Kim. In fact, every fifth South Korean is named Kim -- 8.8 million out of 40 million people, or 21.7 percent.
Not only that. Nearly 6 million, or 15 percent of the population, are named Lee. Another 3.4 million are named Park, and there are close to 2 million Chois and 2 million Chongs. Those five family names account for more than half of the nation. Two-thirds of the population share the top 10 names.
This profusion of Kims and Lees, which may qualify as a nontariff import barrier for foreigners trying to do business here, does not seem to trouble Koreans. Some of the more common names can be written with more than one Chinese character and, besides, people are usually referred to by their full name.
Thus, voters didn't seem to have trouble distinguishing among the three Kims. No one suggested that Roh (pronounced No and sometimes spelled Lho) won because he stood apart from the crowd. Nor was it surprising, when Kim Young Sam reorganized his party at a convention last month, to find him on stage raising high the hands of his new vice presidents: Kim Sang Hyun, Kim Myung Yoon and Kim Young Kwan. Only Kwon Oh Tae spoiled the picture.
IN SOUTH KOREA'S new democratic age, the role of policemen has caused concern. Torture cases continue to crop up, crime appears to be growing and police officers are frequently accused of high-handed and corrupt behavior.
Recently, about 35 young officers, the first graduates of the four-year police academy, joined with 30 cadets of the school to urge that the police never again be used to suppress legitimate dissent or prop up unpopular regimes. They apologized for past police misdeeds and said their orders to suppress citizen protests last June had "plunged them into deep agony," the Korea Times reported.
Police leaders, already nervous about the coming change of power and reeling from the recent arrest of a former police chief in a torture cover-up case, did not appreciate the unprecedented public appeal.
"It is not desirable that incumbent policemen take a group action to express their opinion directly to public organizations, irrespective of hierarchical order," national police chief Kwon Bok Kyung said.
The Seoul police had unveiled their own, rather unusual plan to combat corruption in the force last fall.
Any policeman who did not take a bribe of up to 100,000 won (about $130) would receive a citation from the Seoul police chief. Refusing a bribe of 100,000 to 1 million won would be worth a citation from the Seoul police chief and the national police chief. And any officer who proved his honesty by rejecting a bribe of 1 million won ($1,300) or more would get citations, a meeting with the home minister, a bonus and a factory tour with his spouse.
AMID THE MANY protests South Koreans have staged in the newly liberalized atmosphere, a 19-year-old woman named Na Yong Son has launched one of the more unusual.
Na (not one of Korea's 10 most common names) passed the entrance examination for the Seoul National Teachers' College but was rejected as too short. The college only admits applicants who are 150 centimeters (4 feet 11) or taller, but a hospital nurse had recorded Na at 148.8 centimeters.
School officials, when questioned about the nationwide rule, said that 150 centimeters is the average height of Korean sixth-graders.
Na is not challenging the rule, but says she was incorrectly measured, and at the wrong time of day. Mornings, she stands at least 150 centimeters, and she has gone to court to win entry to the college of her choice.