Chun Doo-hwan (Hangul: ; Hanja: ; Korean pronunciation: [tɕʌnduɦwɐn] or [tɕʌn] [tuɦwɐn]; 6 March 1931 – 23 November 2021) was a politician and general of the Republic of Korea Army who served as President of Korea Fifth South from 1980 to 1988.
From December 1979 to September 1980, he was the de facto leader of South Korea, reigning as a strongman in the military with civilian president Choi Kyu-hah largely a puppet. Chun was sentenced to death in 1996 for his role in the Gwangju Massacre but was later pardoned by President Kim Young-sam, on the advice of President-elect Kim Dae-jung, who had been sentenced to death by Chun's government some 20 years earlier.
Early life and education
Chun was born on March 6, 1931 in Rigokku-men, a poor farming town in Keishōnan-dō, Chōsen. Chun Doo-hwan is the fourth of ten children of Chun Sang-woo and Kim Jeong-mun. Chun's two eldest brothers, Yeol-hwan and Kyuu-gon, died in an accident when they were babies. Chun grew up together with his one remaining older brother, Ki-hwan and his younger brother, Kyeong-hwan.
Around 1936, the Chun family moved to Taikyū, where he began attending Horan Elementary School. Chun's father had clashes with the kempeitai in the past; in the winter of 1939 he killed a police captain. Their family then fled to Kitsurin-sh, Manchukuo, where they hid for two years before returning. When Chun started back in elementary school, he was two years behind his original classmates.
In 1947, Chun began attending the Daegu Vocational Junior High School, which was almost 25 km from his home. Chun then continued his education to Daegu Vocational High School.
After graduating from high school in 1951, Chun entered the Korean Military Academy (KMA). While there, he formed friendships with other students who would later play an important role in helping Chun to rule the country. He graduated in February 1955 with a Bachelor of Science degree and the rank of second lieutenant. He then trained in the United States, specializing in learning about guerrilla tactics and psychological warfare. In 1958, he married Lee Soon-ja, daughter of the KMA commander. Chun, then captain, led a demonstration at the KMA to show support for the May 16 coup led by Park Chung-hee. Chun was later appointed secretary to the Commander of the Supreme Council for National Reconstruction, placing him directly under Park. Chun was promoted to major in 1962, while continuing to make strong friends and acquaintances. As a major, Chun was deputy chief of operations at the Special Warfare Command's combat headquarters, and later served again on the Supreme Council for Reconstruction as Chief Civil Affairs Officer. In 1963, Chun was given a position at the Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA) as Director of Personnel. In 1969, he became a senior adviser to the Army Chief of Staff. In 1970, holding the rank of colonel, Chun became commander of the 29th Regiment, South Korea's 9th Infantry Division, and participated in the Vietnam War. Upon his return to Korea in 1971, he was given the post of Commander of the 1st Special Forces (Airborne) Brigade and was later promoted to brigadier general. In 1976, he served as deputy head of the Presidential Security Service and was promoted to the rank of major general during his time there. In 1978, he became commander of the 1st Infantry Division. Finally, in 1979, he was appointed Commander of the Security Command, his highest military post.
Chun died at his home in Yeonhui-dong, Seoul, on November 23, 2021, less than 1 month after his successor Roh Tae-woo, from complications related to his death.