South Korean opposition leader Kim Young-Sam resigned Wednesday as president of the New Democratic Party. He says he will also retire from politics because of his failure to fulfill his responsibility as parlia mentary opposition leader. The veteran politician has been under house arrest since full martial law was imposed last May after several days of severe antigovernment student demonstrations.
His action comes just as a leading dissident and former presidential contender, Kim Dae-Jung, and 23 followers are to be tried by a military court on charges of attempting to overthrow the government by force.
The military-backed government is concerned with adverse publicity the trial may attract. It admits that Kim Dae-Jung, a know figure with influence abroad, will likely attract sympathy and support from well-intentioned people "who regard him as a champion of democracy."
A US State Department spokesman, David Passage, says the charges leveled against Kim Dae-Jung "seem to be pretty far-fetched," and Western diplomates say many of his actions, such as issuing lapel badges carrying his picture, preparing lists of possible future government officials, and funding student workers would be considered legitimate for someone seeking the presidency elsewhere. But the South Korean government sees these actions as part of a master plan to incite a rebellion.