US, Japan pressured S Korea not to execute Kim Dae Jung

Seoul, Feb 21 (Kyodo) The United States and Japan putintense pressure on the military-backed government in SouthKorea in 1980 to prevent the execution of then leadingdissident Kim Dae Jung, Yonhap News Agency reported today,citing declassified diplomatic documents.

US lawmakers pressured the government of thenPresident Chun Doo Hwan through resolutions, statements andletters to the general-turned-leader, warning of jeopardizedrelations, cutting of exchanges and suspension of economicassistance if Kim, who later became South Korea''s president,was executed over trumped-up charges of treason, the documentsshow.

Japan also pressed the South not to carry out theexecution, saying it would put great strain on relationsbetween the two countries and warning an execution could forceTokyo to seek greater exchanges with North Korea, according tothe documents declassified 30 years after their production.

Kim later became South Korea''s president for fiveyears from 1998 and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2000.He diedin 2009.

"Should the death sentence now facing Kim Dae Jung becarried out, then the traditionally strong relationshipbetween the United States and the Republic of Korea coulditself be put in jeopardy," nine US lawmakers, including Rep.

Lester Wolff, said in an Oct 3, 1980 letter to Chun, thedocuments show, according to Yonhap.

In 1980, Kim and other leading opposition figures werearrested on charges of treason by Gen. Chun Doo Hwan, whoimposed martial law as he moved to take over the presidencyfollowing the assassination of President Park Chung Hee a yearearlier.

Kim Dae Jung was sentenced to death for allegedlyfomenting a pro-democracy uprising in the southern cityGwangju. But his sentence was commuted to life in prison thefollowing year after the execution order drew internationalcondemnation and many countries around the world appealed toSouth Korea not to carry out the execution.

In 1982, Kim was pardoned and allowed to go into exile inthe United States.(Kyodo)

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