The Korea Times

Settings

ⓕ font-size

  • -2
  • -1
  • 0
  • +1
  • +2

Former strongman Chun Doo-hwan dies at 90

  • Facebook share button
  • Twitter share button
  • Kakao share button
  • Mail share button
  • Link share button
Former President Chun Doo-hwan leaves his house in Seoul to head for Gwangju to attend an appellate court hearing on his conviction for libel, in this Aug. 9 photo. Chun died at his residence, Tuesday. He was 90. Yonhap
Former President Chun Doo-hwan leaves his house in Seoul to head for Gwangju to attend an appellate court hearing on his conviction for libel, in this Aug. 9 photo. Chun died at his residence, Tuesday. He was 90. Yonhap

Ex-dictator will not be buried in national cemetery; no state funeral to be held

By Kang Seung-woo

Former President Chun Doo-hwan, who seized power in a coup and governed the nation with a firm hand from 1980 to 1988, died, Tuesday. He was 90.

According to Min Jeong-ki, a former presidential secretary, Chun, who had multiple myeloma ― a cancer formed in white blood cells ― died at his home in western Seoul at 8:45 a.m. After he collapsed in a bathroom, emergency services were called at 8:55 a.m. and paramedics who arrived at 9:12 a.m. then confirmed his death. His body was transferred to the Severance Hospital where a memorial altar was set up. Until recently, Chun had been receiving treatment at the medical center due to his worsening health.

"Chun's last wish was for his remains be buried on high ground at the border overlooking North Korean territory," Min said, adding the former president's body will be cremated before being buried at a site to be determined later.

Chun's death came almost a month after his successor and coup co-conspirator Roh Tae-woo died, Oct. 26.

Cheong Wa Dae expressed regret that Chun died without offering an apology, but offered its prayers for the deceased and condolences to the bereaved family.

"Chun did not reveal the truth of history until the end," presidential spokeswoman Park Kyung-mee told reporters, adding the presidential office had no plans to send flowers or pay a condolence visit.

His funeral service is scheduled to take place, Saturday.

Min Jeong-ki, a former presidential secretary of ex-President Chun Doo-hwan, answers questions from reporters about his death in front of Chun's residence in Seoul, Tuesday. Yonhap
Min Jeong-ki, a former presidential secretary of ex-President Chun Doo-hwan, answers questions from reporters about his death in front of Chun's residence in Seoul, Tuesday. Yonhap

Born in 1931, Chun, a native of Hapcheon, South Gyeongsang Province, entered the Korean Military Academy in 1951 and was on the fast-track in the Army, during which he formed "Hanahoe," a notorious military clique that was later used to brutally suppress the May 18 pro-democracy movement in Gwangju.

When former President Park Chung-hee was assassinated on Oct. 26, 1979, Chun, the chief of the Army Security Command at the time, led the investigation into his death.

On Dec. 12 of the same year, Chun, along with members of Hanahoe that included Roh, staged a coup and announced a nationwide expansion of emergency martial law, before later shutting down the National Assembly the following year.

President Chun Doo-hwan is sworn in as Korea's new president at his inauguration ceremony in Seoul in this Sept. 1, 1980, photo. Yonhap
President Chun Doo-hwan is sworn in as Korea's new president at his inauguration ceremony in Seoul in this Sept. 1, 1980, photo. Yonhap
On May 18, 1980, Chun ordered a notorious bloody crackdown on a civil uprising in Gwangju against his military regime, in which at least 200 people were killed and 1,800 wounded, paving the way for him to launch his iron-fisted rule of the country as head of state in August of that year.

However, calls for a revision to the Constitution to adopt a direct presidential election system grew stronger, and reached a fever pitch through the so-called June Democracy Movement by students and civilians in 1987. This led to the Chun regime finally accepting the public demand for the direct election system.

As a consequence, Chun hand-picked Roh as the presidential candidate for the then ruling Democratic Justice Party, a predecessor of the main opposition People Power Party.

After leaving office in 1988, Chun was embroiled in a series of controversies including corruption allegations, which forced him to issue a public apology for past wrongdoings during his presidency and donate more than 16 billion won ($13.4 million) in "political funds" and private wealth before effectively going into exile at a Buddhist temple on Mount Seorak in Gangwon Province in November 1988. He returned to his home in 1990.

Former President Chun Doo-hwan, right, and his successor, Roh Tae-woo, stand in prison uniforms in a courtroom in Seoul where they were on trial for counts of insurgency, graft and murder, in this Aug. 26, 1996, photo. Yonhap
Former President Chun Doo-hwan, right, and his successor, Roh Tae-woo, stand in prison uniforms in a courtroom in Seoul where they were on trial for counts of insurgency, graft and murder, in this Aug. 26, 1996, photo. Yonhap

In 1996, Chun and Roh were convicted of treason and mutiny in the 1979 coup and brutal suppression of the 1980 pro-democracy movement, as well as accepting "bribes" from conglomerates during their terms as president. Chun was sentenced to death and Roh to 22 years in prison, however, both received presidential pardons in December 1997.

Recently, Chun had been on trial for defaming the late Cho Pius, a priest who was a key witness of Chun's troops shooting from helicopters at pro-democracy demonstrators in Gwangju in 1980. Chun called the priest a "shameless liar" and "Satan wearing a mask" in his memoir released in early 2017.

In November last year, the Gwangju District Court sentenced him to eight months in prison, suspended for two years, after finding him guilty of the charge. Both sides appealed the ruling, and the appellate court planned to deliver its ruling next week. It is now expected to close the case following Chun's death.

According to the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs, Chun will not be buried in a national cemetery because the law on these stipulates people sentenced to imprisonment for treason are excluded from burial there.

In addition, the government has decided not to hold a state funeral for him ― unlike Roh.

Despite contradicting views over Roh's record as the co-leader of a military coup and his oppression of pro-democracy movements, he was given a state funeral for his achievements in advancing democracy in the country.

Regarding Chun, however, a senior government official announced just hours after his death that state assistance would not be provided for any funeral ceremony.



Kang Seung-woo ksw@koreatimes.co.kr


Interactive News

  • With tough love,
  • 'Santa dogs' help rebuild burnt forests in Andong
  • 'Santa dogs' help rebuild burnt forests in Andong
  • A tale of natural wine

Top 10 Stories

go top LETTER