Former South Korean military strongman Chun Doo-hwan, who seized energy in a 1979 coup and brutally crushed pro-democracy protests earlier than going to jail for misdeeds whereas in workplace, died Tuesday. He was 90. 

Chun, who suffered in recent times from Alzheimer’s illness and a blood most cancers, was declared lifeless after a coronary heart assault at his Seoul house, police and emergency officers mentioned. 

Chun’s rule lasted till 1988 and stays for a lot of South Koreans a time marked by extreme political repression in addition to speedy social and financial adjustments. Chun’s coup prolonged military-backed rule of the nation, after the assassination of his mentor and former military common, Park Chung-hee, who had held energy since 1961. During their back-to-back dictatorships, South Koreans suffered large human rights abuses however the nation’s economic system grew dramatically from the ruins of the 1950-53 Korean War. 


Former South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan speaks during a press conference in Seoul, South Korea, on Nov. 6, 1978. 

Former South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan speaks throughout a press convention in Seoul, South Korea, on Nov. 6, 1978. 
(Yonhap through AP)

Chun was a military main common when he seized energy in December 1979 along with his military cronies. Tanks and troops rolled into Seoul in a coup that got here lower than two months after Park was assassinated by his personal intelligence chief throughout a late-night consuming get together after a harsh 18-year rule. 

Chun shortly consolidated his energy by launching a bloody crackdown on a civil rebellion in Gwangju. Government data present about 200 died because of the crackdown, however activists say the loss of life toll was a lot increased. Chun’s authorities additionally imprisoned tens of hundreds of others, saying it was rooting out social evils. 

Chun’s military tribunal arrested distinguished opposition chief Kim Dae-jung and sentenced him to loss of life for allegedly fomenting the Gwangju rebellion. After the United States intervened, Kim’s sentence was decreased and he was finally freed. Kim later grew to become president and received the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to advertise democracy in South Korea and reconcile with rival North Korea. 

Despite political oppression, South Korea’s economic system boomed throughout Chun’s tenure. He launched a number of liberalizing measures, together with an finish to a Korean War-era curfew and an easing of restrictions on abroad journeys. South Korea additionally received the rights to host the 1988 Summer Olympics, which have been seen as celebrating the nation’s financial rise. The Olympics have been held after Chun left workplace. 

Many conservatives nonetheless view Park as a hero who pulled the nation up from poverty, however for most individuals Chun is a extremely unfavourable determine, primarily due to the Gwangju crackdown. Chun by no means apologized and refused to acknowledge he was behind orders to fireside on demonstrators in Gwangju. 

Last month, Chun’s military buddy and one other ex-President Roh Tae-woo, who performed a key position within the 1979 coup, died at the age of 88. Roh by no means straight apologized over the crackdown too. 

Former South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan, center, comes out of his house to attend his trial on the charge of libel in Seoul, South Korea, on Aug. 9, 2021. 

Former South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan, heart, comes out of his home to attend his trial on the cost of libel in Seoul, South Korea, on Aug. 9, 2021. 
(Yonhap through AP)

“Gwangju is truly a huge pain in our country’s modern history. Chun and Roh were the only two people who could have brought a historic closure to such pains,” mentioned Jang Seung-(*90*), a professor at Seoul’s Kookmin University. Jang mentioned it was “very regrettable” that each leaders died with out apologizing and disclosing the complete particulars of the crackdown. 

Jang added that South Koreans stay divided over the legacy of their previous military rulers. He mentioned that “fake news” in regards to the Gwangju crackdown has been fed by Chun’s refusal to completely acknowledge what occurred. 

“The only reaction I had to the news of his death was ‘wow, he’s finally gone,’’’ said Byun Hye-min, an office worker in Seoul. Byun noted there was still a lot of “anger” about “the issues he did and his refusal to apologize.” 

Chun’s rule was also marred by deadly North Korean attacks, though he sought reconciliation with the North during his time in power. 

In 1983, North Korean commandos triggered a bomb that targeted Chun during a visit to Myanmar. Chun narrowly escaped injury in the attack, which killed 21 people, including several South Korean government ministers. In 1987, North Korean agents bombed a South Korean airliner, killing all 115 people on board. 

At home, public anger over his dictatorship led to massive street protests in 1987, forcing Chun to accept a constitutional revision to introduce direct presidential elections, which were considered as the start of South Korea’s transition to democracy 

Roh, the governing party candidate, won a hotly contested December 1987 election, largely due to a splitting of the vote between liberal opposition candidates Kim Dae-jung and his chief rival, Kim Young-sam. 

During Roh’s presidency, Chun took refuge for two years in a Buddhist temple in the face of massive public criticism. After Roh left office in 1993, Kim Young-sam became president and had both Chun and Roh stand trial as part of a reform drive. The two ex-presidents were convicted of mutiny and treason over the coup and the Gwangju crackdown, as well as corruption. Chun was sentenced to death and Roh to 22 1/2 years in prison. 

Former South Korean Presidnt Chun Doo-hwan, holding his grandson, waves to his supporters and neighbors upon his arrival at home after being released from prison in a special government amnesty on Dec. 22, 1997. 

Former South Korean Presidnt Chun Doo-hwan, holding his grandson, waves to his supporters and neighbors upon his arrival at house after being launched from jail in a particular authorities amnesty on Dec. 22, 1997. 
(Yonhap through AP, File)

Kim Young-sam finally pardoned the 2 former presidents in late 1997 at the request of then President-elect Kim Dae-jung, who sought larger nationwide reconciliation to revive the economic system, hit by an Asian overseas change disaster. 

When Roh died on Oct. 26, there was a uncommon outpouring of public sympathy for him, with high-profile figures paying respects to the previous chief and the federal government holding a public funeral for him. 


Though Roh by no means straight apologized over the crackdown, his son repeatedly visited a Gwangju cemetery to pay respects to the victims and apologized on behalf of his father, who was bed-ridden within the 10 years earlier than his loss of life. 

Presidential spokesperson Park Kyung-mee expressed condolences to Chun’s household, however added it was regrettable that the previous chief had didn’t apologize for the Gwangju occasions earlier than his loss of life. She mentioned the Blue House doesn’t plan to ship mourning flowers or any official consultant to pay respects.