Chun Doo-hwan (born 18 January, 1931) was former ROK Army general and the President of South Korea from 1980 to 1988. Chun was sentenced to death in 1996 for authorizing the Gwangju massacre, but later pardoned by President Kim Young-sam on the advice of then President-elect Kim Dae-jung, whom Chun himself had sentenced to death some 20 years earlier.
On 17 May 1980, Chun dropped all pretense of civilian rule, extending martial law to the entire country and disbanding the National Assembly. Many politicians were arrested, including opposition left-wing liberal politician Kim Dae-jung, who was later sentenced to death despite protests from the U.S. Later, Chun commuted Kim's sentence in return for U.S. support. Protests across the nation were suppressed. Ignited by violent suppression with bayonets, however, people in Gwangju rose up, arming themselves with stolen guns and military jeeps in self-defense, and drove off the army units dispatched to quell the protest. In the end at least 207 people were killed and 987 injured in this Gwangju massacre.
Choi resigned in August, and Chun was elected his successor by the National Conference for Unification, the puppet electoral college of then South Korea. In February 1981, Chun was elected president under a revised constitution as the candidate of the Democratic Justice Party (the renamed Democratic Republican Party), having resigned from the army after promoting himself to four star general.
As president, Chun promoted strong centralized government, and the rapid economic growth of the Park era continued.
Although Chun ruled in an authoritarian manner, he had far less power than Park, and for the most part his rule was much milder. The revised 1981 constitution was less authoritarian than its 1972 predecessor, the Yushin Constitution, but still granted very broad powers to the president. However, it restricted the president to one seven-year term, and Chun did not attempt to amend the document so he could run for reelection in 1987.
By 1986, even though the Korean economy enjoyed rapid growth coupled with modest inflation, however, there was much antipathy against Chun's regime among people, led by activist students who later became known as 386s.
In June 1987, Chun named Roh as the ruling party's candidate in the 1987 elections. The nationwide discontent boiled over, leading to nationwide protests. In the same month, U.S. President Ronald Reagan sent a letter to Chun in support of the establishment of "democratic institutions." Following these events, on June 29th, Roh announced a programme of reform. This included direct presidential elections, restoration of banned politicians including Kim Dae-jung, and other liberalizing measures. This enabled Roh to differentiate himself from Chun, and helped by a divided opposition, he was elected as the next president of South Korea. It later became known that this was a move orchestrated by Chun.
During Chun's visit to Rangoon, Burma (now Myanmar) in 1983, a bomb exploded at a mausoleum he was about to visit, killing 21 people, including South Korean Cabinet members. Chun himself narrowly escaped death as he arrived at the scene two minutes late. While no firm evidence of North Korean involvement has been established, they are widely suspected to have been the responsible party.
In 1996, former presidents Chun and Roh were jailed on charges of corruption. On December 16, they were also convicted of treason and mutiny connected with their takeover of power. Many of Chun's supporters argue that accusation is baseless and it's nothing but a work of vengeful politicians. Chun was initially sentenced to death, which was later commuted to a life sentence. He and Roh were pardoned a year later in a move of conciliation initiated by then President-elect Kim Dae Jung.
Heads will roll. (South Korea's Chun Doo Hwan, Roh Tae Woo sentenced; includes other Asian political news)(Brief Article)
Aug 31, 1996; Two former presidents of South Korea were sentenced for their roles in a military coup and a massacre in Kwangju in 1980. Chun...