Final preparations are under way in the South Korean capital, Seoul, to make ready for Wednesday's (12 February) national referendum.
Final preparations are under way in the South Korean capital, Seoul, to make ready for Wednesday's (12 February) national referendum. The vote was called by President Park Chung-Hee last month to seek fresh confidence in the country's much-criticised tough constitution.
President Park has said that he would regard the result of the poll as a vote of confidence in himself and would step down as national leader if the referendum went against the constitution.
The decision to hold the referendum came after months of opposition campaigning for a change in the existing constitution which President Park introduced under martial law in 1972. The legislation greatly extended the powers of the President.
Seoul has been the centre of numerous violent demonstrations by students, workers and leading political figures in recent months. They were protesting against the stringent nature of President Park's administration, and the rapid rate of inflation in South Korea.
Opposition to the referendum has been voiced by the major non-Government political parties in South Korea. The small Democratic Union Party denounced the scheme as a "sinister plan" to extend President Park's authority, and the leader of the main opposition group, the New Democratic Party, Mr. Kim Young-Sam, described the ballot as "a matter of life and death" for South Korea. Both parties fear that the voting will not take place under absolutely free conditions, as campaigning -- for or against -- a referendum issue is illegal.