Thousands of radical students in South Korea are trying to stampede the pro-Western nation into reunification with North Korea. While the confrontations are violent, they should be kept in perspective: South Koreans are not about to give up their freedom and live under a North Korean regime.

Yet, astoundingly, that is what the radicals are demanding. They want reunification at all costs, even though North Korea is one of the most hard-line, repressive communist countries in the world.The students tried to march this week to the demilitarized zone to hold demonstrations and talks with officials and students from North Korea. The march was broken up by police before it began, unfortunately with too much violence.

South Korean officials prohibited the march, saying it would pose a threat to the nation's security. The North and South Korean armies face each other across the DMZ. The North has carried out many espionage and terrorist acts over the years. And the South has not forgotten the invasion of 1950, when North Korea tried to over-run the entire peninsula. The two countries remain bitter enemies, with no ties or contacts.

Despite the misguided desires of the radical students, most South Koreans are acutely aware of the harsh nature of North Korea. While they would like reunification, they won't take it if the cost is too high, anymore than West Germans would agree to be governed by East Germany.

There are thousands of the radical students and they are noisy and very anti-American, but it should not be forgotten that they represent only 2 or 3 percent of the one million South Korean university students.

However, despite their minority status, the radicals pose a different sort of worry. When the Olympic Games open in Seoul in September, they could be a disruptive influence.

The potential threats posed by these students, possible North Korean agents, and other assorted terrorists, may make the Olympic Games the most heavily-guarded event in history - hardly the atmosphere embodied in the Olympic ideal.