Chun Doo-Hwan (Hangul: 전두환; Hanja: 全 斗 煥; Renewed Latinization: Jeon Duhwan, January 18, 1931 - November 23, 2021) was a Korean general and president of the Republic of Korea from 1980 to 1988. After his reign, he was sentenced to death in 1996 for corruption and rebellion, but was pardoned by President Kim Dae-Jung.
Before the presidency
A native of the peasant family, Chun went to study at the Korean Military Academy in 1951, graduating in 1955. Chun was a member of the influential Hanahoi officer group (하나회). As head of the Army Security Service, he was responsible for investigating the assassination of President Park Chung-hee. On December 12, 1979, Chun ordered Chief of Staff General Chung Sung-Hwan (정승화, 鄭 昇 和) to arrest him without the permission of President Choe Gyuhan. The next morning, his partners from the 11th year of the Military Academy were in charge of the country’s armed forces.
On May 17, 1980, Chun extended the martial law to cover the entire country and disbanded the National Assembly. Many politicians were arrested and some were sentenced to death, such as Kim Dae-Jung, whose international pressure was rescued. Protests were violently silenced, as in Gwangju, where hundreds of protesters were killed in the massacre of 18-27. May 1980.
President Choe resigned in August 1980 and Chun was elected his successor at the National Reunification Conference in September. In February 1981, Chun was elected president under the new constitution as a candidate for the Democratic Justice Party. He had at that time resigned from the army to become president after first elevating himself to four-star general.
Chun ruled a strong centralized state, and rapid economic growth continued during his time. Despite his authoritarianism, he had far less power than Park under the 1972 Constitution. However, the presidencies were limited to one, and Chun did not aspire to a second term in 1988. However, he had chosen his classmate Roh Tae-Woo as his successor.
Chun's visit to Rangoon, Burma, killed 21 people in a 1983 bombing, including members of the South Korean government. Chun barely survived the blow, as he only arrived a few minutes after the explosion.
The enriched Korean middle class began in 1986 to be dissatisfied with the lack of political freedoms and the Chun administration. In July 1987, the middle class joined the student demonstrations. That same month, U.S. President Ronald Reagan sent a letter to Chun supporting the establishment of democratic institutions. As a result of the events, Roh announced a reform program in line with the protesters' wishes. These included direct presidential elections and the release of opposition politicians. Chun accepted the changes, which immediately boosted Roh’s popularity, and he was elected next president.
After the presidency
In the post-reign climate of Chun, criticism of the actions of his term began, including the immense corruption of his family. In November 1988, as a gesture of remorse, Chun went to the Baekdamsa Buddhist temple and spent two years there.
In January 1996, Chun was charged with involvement in the 1980 massacre of pro-democracy activists, and both Chun and Roh were charged with bribery. The trial began in March. They were imprisoned. In December 1996, they were also convicted of treason and rebellion for a coup. Chun was initially sentenced to death, but the sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. President Kim Dae-Jung pardoned them as a gesture of reconciliation in 1997. Chun was ordered to return $ 202 million in proceeds of crime. He paid a portion but said the funds were not enough for the full amount. In 2013, one of her four sons announced that the family would pay the rest of the debt.