Throughout this spring's demonstrations, the government of President Roh Tae Woo, who was elected in December under the democratic reforms adopted after last year's riots, has shown restraint in dealing with protesters. And around the time that the students' march to the DMZ was stopped, the Roh regime said that it was considering new efforts to meet with representatives of North Korea. When dissidents announced they would embark on another march north on Aug. 15, Korean Independence Day, Roh's spokesmen said that the government hoped to sponsor its own North-South Independence Day meeting between students.
In Seoul, at least, optimism is the prevailing mood. As one veteran observer from the U.S. says, "It just doesn't feel like a powder keg to me, and you have to remember that, given all the upheaval and violence they've experienced here, there's no place in the world better prepared to provide superhuman security than Seoul." Indeed, if the morning calm is ever to return to Korea, the Olympic Games might offer the best opportunity in years for it to arrive.