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Chun Brother Convicted in South Korea : He Gets 7 Years for Fraud, Embezzlement While a High Official

September 06, 1988|SAM JAMESON | Times Staff Writer

SEOUL — Chun Kyung Hwan, younger brother of former South Korean President Chun Doo Hwan, was convicted of fraud Monday in Seoul District Court and sentenced to seven years in prison and fined $5.9 million.

Chun, 46, was found guilty of using the government-backed Saemaul (Community Development) Movement he headed to receive bribes, commit embezzlement and evade taxes in offenses involving about $10.3 million. Eleven other Saemaul officials were convicted on various counts and sentenced to jail terms of one to three years. Sentences were suspended in five of these cases.

Chun's conviction was the latest embarrassment for former President Chun, and it may prevent his attending the opening ceremony here Sept. 17 of the 24th Olympic Games, a spectacular that his government won for South Korea in 1981.

Chun Doo Hwan had named his younger brother to the Saemaul post, and the younger Chun in turn had appointed two of his brothers-in-law to high Saemaul positions. Both of the brothers-in-law were among those convicted Monday.

Public, Private Funds

The organization receives both government funding and donations from the public to carry out grass-roots community development projects.

Since he left office last February at the end of a seven-year term, former President Chun has been assailed by charges of nepotism, corruption by relatives and extravagant spending himself, all reported in the newly free mass media.

The attacks have become so bitter that leaders of the Democratic Justice Party, which Chun founded after seizing power in a 1980 coup, reportedly are considering asking him not to attend the Olympics opening ceremony.

There is serious concern that an appearance by the former president could provoke mass jeering, marring a ceremony that will be telecast live around the world.

Only last Friday, Yoon Giel Joong, chairman of the ruling party, urged President Roh Tae Woo, Chun's handpicked but popularly elected successor, to uproot "unwholesome legacies" from Chun's government as soon as possible.

"The irregularities of the past should be investigated and brought to light so the people will harbor no more suspicions about them," Yoon told Roh.

He also urged Roh to rid his Cabinet of ministers from Chun's old government.

Already, the Justice Ministry, acting on the demand of a committee of the National Assembly, now controlled by the opposition, has barred 14 of Chun's relatives from leaving the country.

Monday's conviction of Chun Kyung Hwan and the others is expected to strengthen Roh's hand in asserting his own ascendancy over the former president's dwindling influence.

Shortly before his term ended, the authoritarian former army general named loyal followers to top commands in the politically powerful armed forces and engineered an expansion of the powers of a Council of Elder Statesmen, which he was to head as the immediate past president.

Forced to Resign

The arrest of his younger brother in April forced Chun to resign from the council, his last vestige of official power. Many Chun loyalists, however, still hold office.

Among revelations of Chun's extravagance as president has been the disclosure that Chun secretly built five presidential villas with money taken from government employees' pension funds and the budget of the Agency for National Security Planning, formerly the Korean CIA.

Newspapers have also revealed that the former president spent lavishly to refurbish his grandfather's tomb in the countryside, assign police to guard it and build a heliport nearby to facilitate his own visits to the site to honor his ancestor.

Political analysts believe that to strengthen democracy in South Korea, it is essential to establish a tradition of former presidents living peacefully among citizens. Until Chun's departure from office, the country had never experienced a peaceful transfer of power.

Without an assurance of security in retirement, one ruling party leader said, "why would any president want to step down?"

Manifestations of hatred of Chun, however, have raised serious questions about whether he will be able to continue to live in Seoul. It has already become clear that he will be unable to lead a normal life here.

Security around his home near Yonsei University is so tight that neighbors are forced to carry passes to get to their own homes. Radical students demanding his arrest for the heavy loss of life during repression of protests against his 1980 coup have tried to attack his home several times.

After visiting the United States for a month last spring, Chun's outings have been confined to heavily guarded rounds of golf with his neighbors and former government officials.

After the Olympics end Oct. 2, the opposition-dominated National Assembly is scheduled to investigate irregularities in Chun's administration and his role in suppressing protests against his coup.

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