Chun Doo Hwan

Chun Doo Hwan
/juen" doh" hwahn"/
born 1931, South Korean political leader: president since 1980.

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▪ president of South Korea
born Jan. 18, 1931, Naechonri, Korea [now in South Korea]
 Korean soldier and politician who was president of South Korea from 1980 to 1988.

      Born into a peasant family, Chun entered the Korean Military Academy in 1951. Following his graduation in 1955, he became an infantry officer and in 1958 married Lee Soon Ja, daughter of Brigadier General Lee Kyu Dong. Chun commanded a South Korean division in South Vietnam during the Vietnam War and rose rapidly through the ranks. After Park Chung Hee seized power in 1961, Chun served as domestic-affairs secretary for the junta (1961–62) and, with the nominal restoration of civilian government, as chief of personnel of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA; 1963). He served in various other official posts and was made a general in 1978.

      After the assassination of President Park in 1979, Chun took charge of the investigation of his death. He arrested several suspects, including his rival, the army chief of staff, General Chung Sŭng-hwa (December 1979), and he purged many of Chung's supporters in a virtual coup by one military faction against another. Although the official president was Choi Kyu-hah, Chun emerged as the real authority, and in April 1980 Chun became head of the KCIA. In May the military, under Chun's leadership, dropped all pretense of civilian rule, declared martial law, and brutally suppressed democratic civilian opposition in the city of Kwangju.

      After President Choi resigned on August 16, Chun resigned from the army and on August 27 became president. With the country still under martial law, Chun pushed through a new constitution in late 1980 that allowed him to rule with a firm hand.

      Chun's rule was punctuated by several crises, notably a financial scandal in 1982 that forced him to replace half his Cabinet and an assassination attempt in Myanmar (Burma) by North Korean agents in 1983 that resulted in the deaths of several other top aides and ministers. As president, Chun devoted his efforts to maintaining economic growth and political stability. South Korea continued its export-led economic growth under Chun, and the nation industrialized rapidly.

      Chun was unable to serve more than one seven-year term as president under his 1980 constitution, and in 1987 he picked Roh Tae Woo to be the candidate of the ruling Democratic Justice Party. He retired from politics after being succeeded by Roh in 1988. Despite public gestures of atonement for abuses of power during his presidency, Chun could not distance himself from the lingering public memory of his actions. In December 1995 both he and Roh were indicted on charges related to their involvement in the 1979 coup and the uprising in Kwangju in 1980 and for accepting bribes while each was president. Both were found guilty and sentenced to death in August 1996. Chun's sentence was later reduced to life imprisonment, and he received a presidential pardon in December 1997.

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Universalium. 2010.

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