President Roh Tae-woo ordered his Cabinet to push ahead Saturday with plans to temporarily open the border between the Koreas despite North Korea's dismissal of the offer as propaganda to help him through a domestic political dispute.
And South Koreans dissatisfied with Roh's leadership ignored his open border initiative Saturday and staged a massive rally in the capital and clashed with police in a southern opposition stronghold.A turnout of 100,000 people supporting a call for a single opposition party to counter Roh's ruling party outnumbered 17,000 police officers posted around the rally in Boramae Park in southern Seoul and other key areas of the city, but no violence was reported.
The domestic Yonhap news agency said about 700 dissidents staged violent protests in Kwangju, 170 miles south of Seoul.
The news agency said 1,000 police firing tear gas hit the rally site at Chonnam University in Kwangju. The dissidents briefly dispersed but regrouped and continued their rally, then battled police with firebombs in an hourlong attempt to hold street demonstrations, Yonhap said.
The rally in Seoul - spawned by the passage last week of controversial legislation on the military and broadcasting - was sponsored by the opposition Party for Peace and Democracy led by Kim Dae Jung, the Democratic Party headed by Lee Ki-taek and a dissident group seeking to promote opposition unity.
The 70 legislators of Kim's party and five Democrats, who have already offered to quit Parliament, planned to formally submit their resignations Monday to protest the policies of the ruling party.
Kim renewed his demand the National Assembly be dissolved and replaced by a new one through elections and proposed the two opposition parties and the third group merge into a unified party by September. He did not mention Roh's open border offer announced on Friday.
Roh, meanwhile, instructed key ministers at a Cabinet meeting to work out details of his offer of "grand exchanges of people" between the two Koreas to mark the 45th anniversary of the day ending Japanese colonial rule on Aug. 15, 1945.
The prime minister said South Korea will open the truce village of Panmunjom for five days next month for free travel between the two Koreas. Panmunjom, 35 miles north of Seoul, is where the armistice was signed ending the 1950-53 Korean War to a close. The two sides have yet to sign a peace treaty.
At the Cabinet meeting, Roh rejected North Korea's "negative attitude" and demands, according to his spokesman.