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Release: Immediate

New South Korean president is ready to lead, UI professor and friend says

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The president-elect of the Republic of Korea faces a daunting task in leading the economically troubled country, but Kim Dae Jung is committed to making serious changes in the way the country is governed and in its relationship with communist North Korea, says Burns H. Weston, University of Iowa professor of international law and an associate of Kim.

Weston, associate dean for the UI International and Comparative Law program, has known Kim since the early 1980s.

Weston was a member of the human rights observer delegation that met armed resistance at Kimpo International Airport while accompanying Kim back to Seoul from exile in the United States in 1985. Ever since the government-backed killing of human rights demonstrators in Kwangju in Kim's home province in 1980, Kim was repeatedly arrested by the Korean authorities for his outspoken criticism of the government.

"I think Kim's election is a really good sign for Korea and for Asia in general," says Weston. "He is a believer in humane governance who cares about human rights and who is serious about bringing genuine parliamentary democracy to South Korea."

Weston says that since Kim's election Dec. 18, he already has shown signs of his commitment to making changes on the peninsula. Kim has indicated an interest in renewing talks with North Korean leaders, and Kim has pardoned two of Korea's previous leaders who were imprisoned on corruption charges.

The military government of one of the former leaders -- Chun Doo Hwan -- had arrested Kim and sentenced him to death in 1980.

"They tried every which way to kill Kim, including trying to drown him at sea. But he outlasted them all," Weston says.

Weston says he expects to visit Kim during the new year when Kim takes over the "Blue House," as the president's residence in South Korea is called.


EDITORS NOTE: Burns H. Weston, the Bessie Dutton Murray Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Iowa, is available to comment further on the election of president Kim Dae Jung of South Korea. But Weston will be out of the office for part of the upcoming holidays.

You can reach him at (319) 335-9106.