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

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SEOUL – Former South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan, whose ironclad rule in the country following a 1979 military coup sparked mass protests for democracy, died Tuesday at the age of 90, the news agency said. Yonhap.

Chun had multiple myeloma, a blood cancer that was in remission, and passed away at his home in Seoul, Yonhap said.

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

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A distant and upright Chun during his trial in the mid-1990s defended the coup as necessary to save the nation from a political crisis and denied having sent troops to Gwangju.

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

Chun was born on March 6, 1931, in Yulgok-myeon, a poor agricultural town in southeastern Hapcheon County, during Japanese rule over Korea.

He joined the military right after high school, rising through the ranks until he was appointed commander in 1979. Taking over the investigation into the assassination of President Park Chung-hee that year, Chun wooed key military allies and gained control. . of South Korean intelligence agencies to headline a Dec. 12 hit.

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“Faced with the most powerful organizations under the presidency of Park Chung-hee, I was amazed at the ease with which (Chun) gained control over them and the skill with which he took advantage of circumstances. In an instant he seemed to have become a giant, “Park Jun-kwang, Chun’s subordinate during the coup, later told journalist Cho Gab-je.

Chun’s eight-year tenure in the presidential Blue House was marked by brutality and political repression. However, it was also marked by economic prosperity.

Chun resigned amid a nationwide student-led democratic movement in 1987 that demanded a direct electoral system.

In 1995, he was charged with mutiny, treason and arrested after refusing to appear before the prosecution and fleeing to his hometown.

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In what local media dubbed the “trial of the century,” he and coup plotter and successor to President Roh Tae-Woo were found guilty of mutiny, treason and bribery. In their verdict, the judges said that Chun’s rise to power occurred “by illegal means that inflicted enormous harm on the people.”

Thousands of students are believed to have been killed in Gwangju, according to testimonies from survivors, former military officers and investigators.

Roh was sentenced to a long prison term, while Chun was sentenced to death. However, that was commuted by the Seoul High Court in recognition of Chun’s role in the accelerated economic development of the Asian “Tiger” and the peaceful transfer of the presidency to Roh in 1988.

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

Chun returned to the limelight several times. He caused a national scandal in 2003 when he claimed total assets of 291,000 won ($ 245) in cash, two dogs and some household appliances, while he owed about 220.5 billion won in fines. Her four children and other relatives were later found to own large tracts of land in Seoul and luxurious villas in the United States.

In 2013, Chun’s family promised to pay off most of their debt, but their unpaid fines still amounted 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 deceased democratic activist and a Catholic priest in his 2017 memoirs. ($ 1 = 1,188,3000 won) (Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; edited by Jane Wardell and Lincoln Feast)

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