Former South Korean military dictator Chun Doo-hwan dies at the age of 90

Chun has multiple myeloma, a blood cancer in remission, and his health has recently deteriorated, his former press secretary Min Chung-ki told reporters. He passed away at his home in Seoul early in the morning and his body will be transferred to the hospital for a funeral later in the day.

A former military commander, Chun presided over the 1980 Gwangju military massacre of pro-democracy protesters, a crime for which he was later convicted and received a commutation of the death sentence. .

His death comes about a month after another former President and comrade coup d’etat Roh Tae-woo, who played an important but controversial role in the country’s difficult democratic transition. , died at the age of 88.

An outspoken, aloof Chun during his trial in the mid-1990s defended the coup as necessary to save the nation from a political crisis and denied sending troops into Gwangju.

“I’m sure I will take the same action, if the same situation happens,” Chun told the court.

Chun was born on March 6, 1931, in Yulgok-myeon, a poor farming town in the southeastern district of Hapcheon, during the Japanese rule of Korea.

Former South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan leaves the court in Seoul on August 9, 2021.

He joined the army right out of high school, working his way up until he was appointed commander in 1979. In charge of the investigation into the assassination of President Park Chung-hee that year, Chun courted important military allies and gained control. South Korean intelligence agencies to report on a 12 December coup.

“In front of the most powerful organizations under President Park Chung-hee, I was amazed at how easily (Chun) gained control of them and how skillfully he took advantage of the situation. For a moment, he seemed to have become a giant,” Park Jun-kwang, Chun’s subordinate during the subsequent coup, told journalist Cho Gab-je.

Chun’s 8 years of rule in the presidential Blue House are characterized by brutality and political repression. However, it is also marked by growing economic prosperity.

Chun resigned in the wake of the 1987 nationwide student-led democracy movement demanding a direct election system.

In 1995, he was charged with sedition and treason and was arrested after refusing to appear at the prosecutor’s office and fleeing to his hometown.

In what has been dubbed the “trial of the century” by the local media, he and his coup co-conspirator and successor, Roh Tae-Woo, were found guilty of sedition, treason and bribery. In their ruling, the judges said that Chun’s rise to power came “through illegal means causing great harm to the people.”

US President Ronald Reagan pointed out several attractions from the Truman balcony of the White House to South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan and his wife in 1981.

According to testimonies of survivors, former military officers and investigators, thousands of students are believed to have died in Gwangju.

Roh was sentenced to long prison terms while Chun was sentenced to death. However, it was recognized by the Seoul High Court for Chun’s role in the rapid economic development of the Asian “Tiger” economy and the peaceful transfer of the presidency to Roh. in 1988.

Both men were pardoned and released by President Kim Young-sam in 1997, in what he called an effort to promote “national unity”.

Chun has made some back into focus. He caused nationwide outrage in 2003 when he claimed total assets of 291,000 won ($245) in cash, two dogs and some household appliances – while owed about 220.5 billion won in money. punish. His four children and other relatives were later discovered to own large plots of land in Seoul and luxury villas in the US.

Chun’s family in 2013 vowed to pay off his debt, but his unpaid fine still amounts to about 100 billion won as of December 2020.

In 2020, Chun was found guilty and received an eight-month suspended sentence for defaming a late democracy activist and a Catholic priest in his 2017 memoir. Prosecutors appealed and Chun is due to appear in court next week.


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