Bloody Battles Rage at Seoul Campus

SEOUL -- Bloody battles raged for the fourth day Thursday at a Seoul campus between riot police and militant students calling for unification with communist North Korea.

The confrontation came as South Korean President Kim Young-sam renewed his offer of mawsive economic aid to North Korea if the impoverished country agrees to peace talks.

But the move was ignored at Yonsei University, where volleys of tear gas fell like hail, and a dozen choppers rained yellow tear gas solution to disperse 7,000 students who had gathered for a pro-unification rally.

Students fought back, beating police with heavy metal pipes and throwing stones and firebombs. Stones, bricks and broken glass littered the main campus thoroughfare, where burnt remains of tires, desks and chairs set on fire by the students were left to smolder.

Earlier, police had used excavators and trucks to tear down the steel main gates of the school, an elite university also known as a hotbed of anti-government activism.

Dozens of students were seen limping; many others were bleeding.

In one of two raids into the campus, 100 riot police were overpowered and pummeled by angry students. Several were beaten unconscious and bloody. Thirty police were freed after being stripped of their equipment.

More than 500 students and police were injured over the four days, some with broken bones. Some 600 students have been detained.

Further injuries were avoided when police put off raiding the science building where 1,000 students had holed up.

Students had threatened to set a propane gas tank on fire if police entered the building. School authorities asked the police to back off because the seven-storied building housed flammable chemicals.

Students sprayed water and hurled rocks and laboratory equipment at riot police below from the rooftop.

The crackdown reflected the government's determination to stem campus activism, which it said endangered social order. Seoul had outlawed the protest as pro-North Korea.

In an Independence Day speech Thursday, President Kim said South Korea was willing to assist North Korea economically, but that it was conditional on North Korea's acceptance of four-way peace talks that involve the United States, China and the two Koreas.

Despite its economic problems, North Korea has yet to accept the April peace proposal. The North's acceptance would mark a major breakthrough because it has so far refused to talk officially with Seoul.

Kim said South Korea is willing to help increase the North's agricultural productivity through technical and financial assistance, arrange for private investment in North Korea's first-ever free trade zone, and allow tourists to visit the North.

But prior to these exchanges, the governments of the two Koreas must guarantee the safety of people and materials to be exchanged, he said.

Students said that Kim's government lacks the desire to improve ties with Pyongyang.