Family of former South Korean dictator to pay his fines

“We bow deeply in apology,”  Chun Jae-kook, the eldest son of Chun Doo-hwan, said Tuesday in Seoul.
AFP/Getty Images
“We bow deeply in apology,” Chun Jae-kook, the eldest son of Chun Doo-hwan, said Tuesday in Seoul.

SEOUL — The children of a former military dictator of South Korea, Chun Doo-hwan, said Tuesday that they will pay $154 million that their father owed the government in fines.

Their decision closes a chapter on South Korea’s prolonged struggle with the legacy of one of its most brutal former leaders.

Chun, then an army major general, came to power in a coup in 1979 following the assassination of another military-backed strongman, President Park Chung-hee, who was the father of the current South Korean leader, President Park Geun-hye.


Chun ruled until 1988, when he was succeeded by Roh Tae-woo, his partner in the 1979 coup.

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After South Korea’s transition to democracy, both Chun and Roh were convicted on charges of treason for their roles in the coup and a 1980 military crackdown on a pro-democracy uprising in the southern city of Kwangju that left hundreds dead.

They were also convicted of collecting huge bribes from big business while in office.

In 1997, Chun was sentenced to life in prison and Roh to 17 years.

Although they were later pardoned and freed, Chun and Roh had failed to pay the $203 million and $248 million that they were fined, respectively.


Chun has paid only a quarter of his fine, claiming to have only $267 in his bank accounts.

But opposition lawmakers have said he might have huge assets stashed away.

The statute of limitations on confiscating assets from him was to expire this year. But in June, the National Assembly passed a bill that extended the statute of limitations on his case to 2020 and allowed prosecutors to collect from his family members as well if it could be proved that any of their properties originated from Chun’s illegal funds.

Prosecutors have since raided 90 facilities owned by the Chun family members, confiscating a total of $83 million worth of assets.

Chun’s brother-in-law was arrested on tax evasion charges earlier this month. Chun Jae-yong, one of the former president’s three sons, was also under investigation on similar charges.


“We bow deeply in apology,” Chun Jae-kook, the eldest son of Chun, said in a family statement that he read in front of the prosecutors’ office in Seoul on Tuesday.

He said Chun’s three sons and daughter would give up buildings, land, and paintings and other assets to help pay their father’s fine.

He said the house where Chun and his wife live would also be sold to help pay the fine, though he asked government officials to let his parents live there until they die. Chun is 82.