Former South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan died on Tuesday age 90. Pictured in Seoul, South Korea 1995.
South Korea’s former military dictator apologized to his widow for the “pain and scars” caused by their brutal rule.
A number of family members and ex-aides gathered Saturday at a Seoul hospital to pay respects for Chun Doohwan on Tuesday, when he died aged 90.
Lee Soon-ja Chun’s widow offered a deep apology for the pains and scars’ on behalf of her family yesterday as the five day funeral procession was over.
She did not specify the misdeeds of Chun, but she stated: “As we close the funeral procession today I would like the family to express deep regrets for the pains and scars that my husband caused during his time in office.”
After a 1979 coup, Chun took control and brutally crushed protesters for democracy a year later. In the 1990s, Chun was sentenced to treason.
Lee Soon-ja is the wife of Chun Doohwan’s former president. She enters Severance Hospital, Seoul, South Korea, to pay her respects.
Chun’s family conducted a funeral at Seoul’s Severance Hospital, before cremating his remains in a memorial park.
Lee Soon-ja’s widow stated that her husband wanted to be cremated, and his ashes should be scattered in the North Korean border.
Chun was never able to apologize for his crimes, which include the 1980 massacre of hundreds in Gwangju by pro-democracy protesters.
This was the worst moment in modern country history. It occurred as he tried to consolidate his rule after the coup.
Today’s Yonsei University Severance Hospital, in Seoul, transports the coffin belonging to former President Chun Doohwan.
Cho Jin-tae was a top official of a foundation that represents victims from Gwangju. He said Lee’s vague expressions of remorse rang hollow.
He asked Chun’s relatives to follow her words and take action.
Cho said to The Associated Press that he didn’t think Lee Soon-ja’s remarks today would console anyone.
Chun, a major-general in the army, seized power with military cronies in December 1979. Roh Taewoo was later to succeed Chun after winning the first democratic elections in many decades.
They died almost exactly one month apart. Roh’s passing occurred on October 26th.
Widow Lee (center) watches as the coffin that holds her husband’s remains is being filled with water
Although Roh received a funeral in the state, Chun was not. He had been known as the “butcher of Gwangju”.
Roh did not apologize directly for the crackdown but his son visited Gwangju to pay his respects and to apologize on behalf his father who had been bedridden for 10 years prior to his death.
Following the assassination Park Chung-Hee (his mentor and ex-army general), Chun extended military-backed government to the country. He was in control since 1961.
While South Koreans were subject to massive human rights violations during their dictatorships back-to-back, the nation’s economy rebounded dramatically after the Korean War of 1950-1953.
Chun’s family conducted a funeral at Seoul’s Severance Hospital, before cremating his remains in a memorial park. Photographed 1997
Other than the brutal crackdown in Gwangju Chun’s government also detained tens or thousands of other dissidents throughout the 1980s. These included the future president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Kim Dae Jung.
Kim was then an important opposition leader and was sentenced initially to death by military tribunals for fomenting Gwangju’s uprising.
Kim was finally released from prison after the United States intervened.
In an effort to be recognized internationally, Chun’s government pushed for the bid to host 1988 Olympics.
Officials tried to beautify this country for foreigners by carrying out massive house cleanings, roundups of homeless people and large-scale home clearings.
One mourner kneels before the memorial altar of Chun Doohwan (ex-dictator in South Korea)
Chun’s government was also instrumental in international adoptions for Korean children mostly to European and American families.
It created the largest global diaspora for adoptees.
Chun was president when more than 60,000. Most were born to unmarried mothers with stigmatized children who felt pressured into giving up their infants.
His dictatorship eventually led to massive national protests that prompted Chun into accepting a constitutional amendment to permit direct presidential election.
This marked the beginning of South Korea’s democratic transition.
Roh, the governing candidate for the party, was elected due to a division of vote between Kim Dae Jung, a Liberal Opposition candidate, and Kim Youngsam, his Chief Rival.
After attending the appellate trial in Gwangju (South Korea) in August, Chun was seen leaving a district Court.
Kim Young-sam was elected president in 1993 after Roh had left office. He also tried Chun and Roh as part of a Reform drive.
Two ex-presidents were convicted for mutiny over the Gwangju crackdown as well as corruption. Chun was sentenced as a capital punishment and Roh, to 22 1/2 years imprisonment.
Later, the Supreme Court reduced these sentences to life imprisonment by Chun and 17 year for Roh.
Roh and Chun had spent about two years behind bars. In late 1997, they were granted a pardon by Kim Dae-jung (then President of the Republic), who wanted national reconciliation.