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Kim's return

THE United States government should watch carefully to see how the South Korean government reacts to the American protest of the rough treatment initially accorded Kim Dae Jung and those who accompanied him on his return home late last week. The Reagan administration should note carefully, as well, the way the Seoul government treats Kim from now on. Unless treatment of Kim improves, the US should consider canceling the Washington visit of South Korean President Chun Doo Hwan, now set for late April.

Certainly the first hours of Kim's return from exile in the United States were not auspicious. Several accompanying Americans, including two members of Congress, reported the South Korean police had used unnecessarily rough tactics to separate Kim from the group and hustle him away.

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It is understandable that the Seoul government would want to get Kim away from the airport as quickly as possible for safety reasons, out of concern for the possibility that he might be assassinated, perhaps by a North Korean agent, since Philippine opposition leader Benigno Aquino was killed on his return to Manila.

But unnecessary force was employed; not even the most elemental human respect was shown for Kim, or for those with him. The treatment violated the agreement the US thought it had extracted from South Korea that Kim's return would be peaceful.

Returning on the virtual eve of South Korean elections, Kim Dae Jung was immediately put under what he termed house arrest. His fellow opposition leader, Kim Young Sam, has been banned for several years from participating in politics.

Over the years the United States has sought to export democracy to many countries. Democratic forms of government have been adopted by several, including Japan, Korea, and a number in Latin America.

Yet democratic trappings do not a democracy make. More important than democracy's form is its substance, including civil liberties, political freedom, and respect for each individual. Many of the nations that have accepted the format of democracy have yet to embrace its fundamental elements. Korea, despite its progress,has not yet advanced to the admittedly imperfect state of democracy practiced in the United States. It all shows once again how difficult it is for any nation to graft its form of government, without force, onto the age-old history and culture of another.

Ironically, the manhandling of Kim and repression in the Philippines come when the military in Latin America, which often has flouted the democratic will of its citizenry, is retreating from governmental power. In most Latin American nations rule either has been handed over to civilians or is in the process of being returned, as noted by the article below. ----30--{et

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