|A funeral altar is set up for Chun Doo-hwan at Severance Hospital in Seoul, Tuesday. Yonhap|
By Lee Hyo-jin
An aide to Chun Doo-hwan, the former president who died at the age of 90 on Tuesday, has claimed that Chun's death may have been caused by an abnormal reaction after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.
Chun seized power in a military coup in 1979 and ruled the country until 1988. He was diagnosed in August with multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer that affects white blood cells.
Min Jeong-ki, Chun's former presidential secretary, raised speculation that he may have developed the disease as a side effect of the coronavirus vaccine, which could have been the cause of his death.
"When I visited him in June of this year, he didn't look very well. I asked his wife about his health condition, and she replied, 'He lost about 10 kilograms in 10 days, as he lost his appetite after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine,'" he said during an interview with a local broadcaster, Tuesday.
He said that Chun was administered with the Pfizer vaccine, but the exact date of inoculation is unknown.
"And then he was diagnosed with leukemia. I've heard that such incidents (of getting diagnosed with leukemia after a COVID-19 vaccine) have occurred with other people as well," Min said, raising speculation that Chun's cancer diagnosis may have been an abnormal reaction from the vaccine.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare said it will conduct an investigation into Chun's case in accordance with the protocol.
"If a suspected abnormal effect is reported, we conduct a probe in accordance with the policy on vaccines' adverse effects. But we cannot make any conclusions unless an official report is filed," health ministry spokesperson Son Young-rae said during a briefing, Wednesday.
Jacob Lee, an infectious disease specialist at Hallym University Sacred Hospital, refuted Min's claims, calling them "groundless."
"Many hematology experts have repeatedly said that leukemia and the vaccine have no causal links," he said during an interview with a local radio station, Thursday.
"And as Chun had been suffering from multiple myeloma, a type of leukemia that progresses very slowly, there is a very low possibility that leukemia was the result of an abnormal reaction to the vaccine."