Chun Doo-hwan (Hapcheon, January 18, 1931 – Seoul, November 23, 2021) was a South Korean politician, dictator of South Korea from 1979 to 1988, and organizer of a 1980 coup d'état against the government of Choi Gyuha, who served as the country's prime minister during Park Chung-hee's term.
He was born into a peasant family during the Japanese occupation of Korea.
Chun joined the army shortly after high school, rising through the ranks to become commander in 1979. He participated in Park Chung-hee's coup, which guaranteed him a prominent role in the country's military. When President Park was assassinated, Chun led the investigation, taking the opportunity to take control of South Korea's intelligence agencies in order to prepare a coup. From December 1979 to September 1980, he was the country's de facto leader, ruling as an unelected military with civilian president Choi Kyu-hah. For eight years he ran the country with a regime characterized by brutality and political repression, but also economic prosperity. Economic growth was accompanied by bribes in exchange for tax cuts and other government benefits for powerful families. Chun ruled under martial law, closed parliament and universities, arrested dissidents and controlled the country's media. Motivated by the death of a student during torture, a democratic movement led by students across the country demanded a direct electoral system and, in 1987, he had Chun resign from office.
Accused of mutiny and treason, he was arrested in 1995 after refusing to appear before the Public Ministry and fleeing to his hometown. He and his co-conspirator and successor Roh Tae-Woo were found guilty of mutiny, treason and bribery in what the media called the "trial of the century." During the trial, Chun defended the coup as necessary to save the country from the political crisis and denied sending troops to the Gwangju Massacre. Roh was sentenced to prison and Chun to death, but they were pardoned in recognition of Chun's role in the country's economic development and the peaceful transfer of power. The two were released in 1997 by President Kim Young-sam, on the advice of then-President-elect Kim Dae-jung, whom Chun's government had sentenced to death some twenty years earlier. in Burma territory in 1983. Chun died on November 23, 2021, aged ninety, in Seoul.
December 12 coup d'état
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