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Former South Korean navy strongman Chun Doo-hwan dies at age 90

Former South Korean navy strongman Chun Doo-hwan dies at age 90

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Former South Korean navy 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 lately from Alzheimer’s illness and a blood most cancers, was declared useless after a coronary heart assault at his Seoul residence, police and emergency officers stated.

Chun’s rule lasted till 1988 and stays for a lot of South Koreans a time marked each 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. Throughout their back-to-back dictatorships, South Koreans suffered big human rights abuses however the nation’s economic system grew dramatically from the ruins of the 1950-53 Korean Warfare.

Chun was a military main common when he seized energy in December 1979 along with his navy 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 occasion after a harsh 18-year rule.

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

Chun’s navy tribunal arrested outstanding opposition chief Kim Dae-jung and sentenced him to demise for allegedly fomenting the Gwangju rebellion. After the USA intervened, Kim’s sentence was lowered and he was ultimately freed. Kim later turned president and received the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to advertise democracy in South Korea and reconcile with rival North Korea.

Regardless of 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 Warfare-era curfew and an easing of restrictions on abroad journeys. South Korea additionally received the rights to host the 1988 Summer season 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 detrimental 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.

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

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“Gwangju is actually an enormous ache in our nation’s fashionable historical past. Chun and Roh have been the one two individuals who might have introduced a historic closure to such pains,” stated Jang Seung-Jin, a professor at Seoul’s Kookmin College. Jang stated 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 navy rulers. He stated that “faux information” in regards to the Gwangju crackdown has been fed by Chun’s refusal to completely acknowledge what occurred.

“The one response I needed to the information of his demise was ‘wow, he’s lastly gone,’’’ stated Byun Hye-min, an workplace employee in Seoul. Byun famous there was nonetheless a whole lot of “anger” about “the issues he did and his refusal to apologize.”

Chun’s rule was additionally marred by lethal North Korean assaults, although he sought reconciliation with the North throughout his time in energy.

In 1983, North Korean commandos triggered a bomb that focused Chun throughout a go to to Myanmar. Chun narrowly escaped harm within the assault, which killed 21 folks, together with a number of South Korean authorities ministers. In 1987, North Korean brokers bombed a South Korean airliner, killing all 115 folks on board.

At residence, public anger over his dictatorship led to huge avenue protests in 1987, forcing Chun to simply accept a constitutional revision to introduce direct presidential elections, which have been thought-about as the beginning of South Korea’s transition to democracy

Roh, the governing occasion candidate, received a hotly contested December 1987 election, largely resulting from a splitting of the vote between liberal opposition candidates Kim Dae-jung and his chief rival, Kim Younger-sam.

Throughout Roh’s presidency, Chun took refuge for 2 years in a Buddhist temple within the face of huge public criticism. After Roh left workplace in 1993, Kim Younger-sam turned president and had each Chun and Roh stand trial as a part of a reform drive. The 2 ex-presidents have been convicted of mutiny and treason over the coup and the Gwangju crackdown, in addition to corruption. Chun was sentenced to demise and Roh to 22 1/2 years in jail.

Kim Younger-sam ultimately pardoned the 2 former presidents in late 1997 on the request of then President-elect Kim Dae-jung, who sought larger nationwide reconciliation to revive the economic system, hit by an Asian international 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.

Although Roh by no means immediately 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 demise.

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 demise. She stated the Blue Home doesn’t plan to ship mourning flowers or any official consultant to pay respects.

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Related Press author Kim Tong-hyung contributed to this report.

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