South Korean Envoy Defends Government Policy on Dissent

South Korean Ambassador Hahm Pyong-choon, in two speeches here Wednesday, issued an appeal for American patience with his country's worsening political situation.

Economic difficulties as well as renewed threats from North Korea make it impossible for his government to tolerate unlimited dissent from students and intellectuals, he said.

The South Korean government arrested many students last October when they protested widespread police surveillance and the government's kidnapping of the prominent opposition politician Kim Dae Jung from Japan.

Although the Seoul government later relaxed its policy towards students and the media, it has since moved away from permissiveness, Haham said. He said he expects more student demonstrations in the spring.

Hahm said that his government's policy toward students protected the majority interest of workers whose only concerns are improved living standards and continued peace.

He attributed recent North Korean hostility to the South's improved economic performance. Hahm said that his government had no choice but to continue to push for rapid economic growth despite the current international crisis.

The South's economic development is the key to eventual Korean reunification, according to Hahm. The North Koreans will only agree to peaceful coexistence when they see that the South is economically viable, Hahm said.

Continued American military presence in South Korea will allow the United States to play a pivotal role in East Asia, Hahm said. Hahm discussed various scenarios by which the Korean peninsula could play an important role in the event of a Sino-Soviet war.

Hahm is a graduate of Harvard Law School and a former Fulbright Scholar. He has been called the Korean Kissinger.