Dictator Scurry’s widow apologizes for brutal rule

Dictator Scurry’s widow apologizes for brutal rule

flood — The widow of South Korea’s last military dictator issued a terse apology for the “pains and scars” caused by her husband’s brutal rule as dozens of relatives and former aides gathered at a Seoul hospital Saturday to pay their last respects to Chun Doo-hwan. .

Chun, who took power in a 1979 coup and violently crushed pro-democracy protests a year before he was jailed for treason in the 1990s, died at his home in Seoul on Tuesday at the age of 90.

On the last day of the five-day funeral procession, the Chun family held a funeral at Severance Hospital in Seoul before his remains were taken to a memorial park for cremation. Chun’s widow, Lee Sun Ja, said during the service at the hospital that her husband wanted to cremate his body and spread his ashes in the border areas near North Korea.

“As we wrap up the funeral procession today, I would like to offer a heartfelt apology on behalf of our family to the people who have experienced pain and scarring during my husband’s time in office,” Lee said, without specifying Chun’s crimes.


Chun never apologized for his atrocities, which included overseeing the massacre of hundreds of pro-democracy protesters in the southern city of Gwangju in 1980, one of the darkest moments in the country’s modern history that came as he attempted to consolidate his rule after the coup. .

Zhou Jin-tae, a senior official with a foundation representing Gwangju victims, said Li’s vague expression of remorse sounded hollow and called on the Chun family to back their words with action, including cooperating with the fact-finding effort into Chun’s major wrongs.

“I don’t think Lee Soon Ja’s comments will comfort anyone today,” Cho told The Associated Press by phone.

Chun was a major in the army when he seized power in December 1979 with his military comrades, including Roh Tae-woo, who later succeeded Chun as president after winning the country’s first democratic election in decades. The two died for about a month, with Roh dying on October 26.


While Roh was given a state funeral, there was much less sympathy for Chun, who was nicknamed “The Butcher of Gwangju.” Although Roh has never directly apologized for the crackdown, his son has repeatedly visited the Gwangju cemetery to pay respects to the victims and apologize on behalf of his father, who was bedridden in the ten years before his death.

Chun’s coup expanded the country’s military-backed rule after the assassination of his mentor and former army general, Park Chung-hee, who had held power since 1961. During their successive dictatorships, South Koreans suffered massive human rights abuses even though the national economy grew exponentially from the ruins of the Korean War. 1950-53.

Aside from the bloody crackdown in Gwangju, the Cheon government also imprisoned tens of thousands of other dissidents during the 1980s, including future president and 2000 Nobel Peace Prize winner Kim Dae-jung. A military court initially sentenced Kim, then a prominent opposition leader, to death for inciting the Gwangju Uprising. After the United States intervened, Kim’s sentence was commuted and he was eventually released.


Desperate to gain international legitimacy, the Chun government successfully pushed a bid to host the 1988 Olympics, a process that was accompanied by massive evictions of homes and arrests of vagrants and homeless as officials attempted to beautify the country for foreign visitors.

In an effort to develop relations with the democratic West and reduce the number of mouths to feed at home, the Chun government also facilitated international adoptions of Korean children, mostly from white families in America and Europe, creating the largest number of adopters in the world. More than 60,000 children were sent abroad during Chun’s presidency, most of them newborns purchased from single and stigmatized mothers who were often pressured to give up their children.

Public anger at his dictatorship eventually fueled widespread nationwide protests in 1987, forcing Chun to accept a constitutional review to introduce direct presidential elections, which were seen as the beginning of South Korea’s transition to democracy.


Roh, the ruling party’s candidate, won the hotly contested December 1987 elections, largely due to the split of votes between liberal opposition candidates Kim Dae-jung and his main rival Kim Young-sam.

After Roh left office in 1993, Kim Young-sam became president and both Chun and Roh were tried as part of the reform drive. The two former presidents were convicted of rebellion and treason over the coup and suppression of Gwangju, as well as corruption. Chun was sentenced to death and Roh to 22 and a half years in prison.

The Supreme Court later commuted those sentences to life imprisonment for Chun and 17 years for Roh. After spending about two years in prison, Roh and Chun were released in late 1997 under a special amnesty requested by then-President-elect Kim Dae-jung, who had sought national reconciliation.

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