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Former President Chun Doo-hwan dies at 90

Posted November. 24, 2021 07:28,   

Updated November. 24, 2021 07:28


Former South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan died of long illness on Tuesday at the age of 90. Falling down in his home at 8:40 a.m. on the day, Chun did not recover consciousness and eventually passed away. Police and firefighters were reported to have been immediately dispatched upon receiving the 119 call and confirmed Chun’s death at 9:12 a.m. He was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer, in August and has been receiving treatments at home and hospital.

Former President Chun is a “problematic figure” in the winding history of modern South Korea. He came to power by staging a coup in 1979, “the Coup d’etat of December Twelfth, at the hand of Hanahoe, a private group of military officers, and brutally suppressed pro-democracy demonstrators in the 1980 Gwangju army massacre. The people of South Korea took to street in June 1987 against Chun’s iron-fisted rule, which led to the constitutional amendment to hold direct presidential elections. After stepping down from the office, Chun was charged with mutiny, treason, and bribery and was sentenced to life imprisonment, which was commuted later. He was eventually granted a pardon.

Chun has been criticized for having said that he only had 290,000 won in his bank account, defaulted on the payment of surcharge, and denied giving a shoot-to-kill order in Gwangju.

Chun did not apologize to the victims of the Gwangju army massacre and their bereaved families until his death, marking a striking contrast with former President Roh Tae-woo, Chun’s co-conspirator of the coup and succeeding president. Roh had died a month ago, whose apology, though not directly from himself, came from his family before his demise. Chun’s former secretary Min Jung-ki angrily replied to the question that whether Chun left any message to the victims and bereaved families of the May 18 massacre by saying, “The question is wrong in and of itself.”

There will be no state funeral for Chun, and his mortuary was set up at Severance Hospital in Seodaemun District, Seoul. The Veterans Affairs Ministry stated that Chun was not eligible for burial at the National Cemetery pursuant to the Act on the Establishment and Management of National Cemetery, as Chun was charged with treason, etc., and received a prison sentence. President Moon Jae-in, the presidential candidates of the ruling and opposition parties, and the party leaders stated that they would not send flowers or visit the mortuary.

Sung-Yeol Yoo ryu@donga.com