Campaign to save Kim Dae Jung puts Tokyo government on the spot
With a final court court ruling on condemned South Korean dissident politician Kim Dae Jung expected this week emotions in neighboring Japan are running high.
The campaign to save his life has created an unpleasant, perhaps irreconcilable contradiction for the government of Prime Minister Zenko Suzuki, which has pledged every effort to prevent Kim's execution while still hoping to preserve good relations with South Korea.
The South Korean press has whipped up national indignation against alleged Japanese meddling in its internal affairs.
In Japan, demonstrations, hunger strikes, and boycotts of Korean goods and union refusal to handle Korean-bound Japanese exports is part of the mounting pressure on the Suzuki government to take some decisive, if unspecified, diplomatic action on Kim's behalf.
The South of Korean Supreme Court is expected to announced its ruling Dec. 5 on the opposition politician's appeal against his death sentence for his alleged treasonous antigovernment activities at home and in Japanese exile.
Japan-south Korea relations took a decided turn for the worse last week over Mr. Suzuki's alleged warning to Seoul that if Kim is executed, "Even if [the Tokyo government] wanted to continue cooperating with South Korea we would be unable to do so."
In a private conversation with the Korean ambassador, Suzuki was said to have warned that Japanese public opinion might incline away from the South toward increasing exchanges with North Korea.
with the South considering itself still on a war footing against invasion from the communist North, no threat could have greater impact.
The conversation was not intended to be made public, but was leaked by the Koreans, sparking off a virulent anti-Japanese campaign in Seoul.
Knowing the mild-mannered Suzuki, Diplomatic observers here believe his remarks have probably been overstated. But he would only have been stating the obvious if he had indeed warned the koreans of the tremendous pressure that would be exerted on his government by opposition parties, the press, an d civic groups here if Kim was hanged.
This is already apparent. At its annual convention Monday, the main opposition socialist Party approved a resolution condemning government weakness and claiming that this weakness was motivated by a collusive business relationship between leading politicians of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the regime of President Chun doo Hwan.
The Socialists have also revived their longstanding insistence that it is not inJapan's best interests to pander exclusively to South Korea By ignoring the existence of the communist North.
the Government's difficulty was clearly shown in the prime minister's remarks on a television program Nov. 30 that "our wish is to help save Mr. Kim Dae Jung and prevent no shadow being cast over Japan-South Korea relations.
"My thinking is that we should make efforts to the last [to prevent his execution] by carefully considering what to do and what not to do."
Mr. Suzuki gave no indication of what concrete steps the government planned.
He stressed that since the Kim case was South Korea's internal affair, full prudence should be used not to cause the South Korean people to beleive Japan is interfering in their domestic affairs.
Supporters of Kim here, However, argue strongly that his case is not solely a Korean affair.
They point out that he is under the death sentence primarily because of antigovernment activities while in exile in Japan and the United States. Korean agents kidnapped him from a Tokyo hotel in 1973 and smuggled him back to a jail cell in Seoul.
For a time, the Tokyo government regarded that as Korean interfernce in Japan's internal affairs.
There is a strong feeling in Japan that the Supreme Court will confirm the sentence and Kim will be hanged immediately.
If that occurs, the 4.6 million-strong General Council of Trade Unions has said it will boycott the handling of goods between the two countries.
More worrying for the government, however, is the mounting political pressure for it to act strongly against South Korea.
Government sources said the Foreign Ministry in particular was worried about the possibility of lasting damage to bilateral relations that would result from a fanning of antiJapanese sentinent -- never far from the surface in Korea following Japan's prewar occupation of the country.