The past week might easily have brought a major political crisis with escalating violence and bloodshed in South Korea. Instead, it produced a meeting between the heads of government and the political opposition that at least staved off a resort by the government to martial law. Washington had intervened. It sent the State Department's East Asian expert, Assistant Secretary Gaston Sigur, to Seoul. Mr. Sigur arrived Tuesday. On Wednesday, President Chun Doo Hwan received Kim Young Sam, a leader of the political opposition, at the presidential palace amid talk of ``dialogue and compromise.''
There was relief in Washington, where there had been weeks of anxiety as political unrest in South Korea fueled growing street demonstrations and battles with the police. Washington faced the possibility of having to intervene as it had in both Haiti and the Philippines.
But there could still be plenty of trouble before South Korea regains internal political tranquility. The talks between Mr. Chun and Mr. Kim did not go well, and opposition groups have called for a popular ``peace march'' to take place today in protest.
Yet Washington's anxiety over South Korea is about the damage that could be done by internal disorder. It is not related to any danger of South Korea going communist.
There has been some anti-Americanism in the street demonstrations because the opposition tends to assume that Washington supports the, by now, unpopular Chun regime. But there is no significant communist element in the opposition, no significant communist movement in South Korea.