SEOUL — Former President Chun Doo Hwan today defied a summons from prosecutors to appear for questioning about a 1980 massacre, plunging the nation deeper into an expanding political crisis.
"I will not cooperate with any demand by prosecutors, including a summons," Chun, a former general who once seized power and then brutally crushed opposition to his rule, told reporters outside his home.
Prosecutor Lee Jong Chan said Friday that Chun "has been ordered in for questioning . . . as a suspect in the military rebellion."
Chun led a military mutiny in 1979, then took power in a 1980 coup and cracked down on opposition protesters. He was South Korea's president from 1980 to 1988.
The summons for Chun to report to prosecutors this afternoon, while not unforeseen, came with unexpected speed. It was not immediately clear how authorities would respond to his refusal to appear.
Lee said prosecutors were considering several options, including forcible detention of Chun for questioning. Another option would be to seek a court-issued arrest warrant, which could come as early as Sunday, and then arrest him, he said.
Authorities also said they had clamped an immediate foreign travel ban on Chun.
Dressed formally in a white shirt and tie, suit, white scarf and warm overcoat, Chun bitterly attacked President Kim Young Sam for initiating the prosecutors' action against him.
He noted that Kim became president only after merging his opposition party with the ruling party six years ago when Roh Tae Woo, Chun's hand-picked successor, was president. Roh, also a former general, in turn supported Kim's successful bid for the presidency in 1992.
"Now, three years after his inauguration, Kim Young Sam suddenly charges me as the chieftain of treason, thereby denying all past history and his relation to it," Chun said. "If I am a chieftain of treason, President Kim should also bear appropriate responsibility for having cooperated with insurrectionists."
Chun said issues concerning the 1979 mutiny and 1980 coup had already been settled by his appearance before a National Assembly committee in 1989. "If they want to find the true facts, they can refer to my written testimony" submitted at that time, he said.
Chun then rode in a black limousine to Seoul's National Cemetery, where he lit incense at a memorial in honor of South Korea's war dead and government officials who died for their country. Chun aides said he would then travel to his hometown of Hapchon, in South Kyongsang province, 145 miles south of the capital. He left the cemetery and headed in that direction in a motorcade.
A van also left Chun's home loaded with clothes and other personal belongings.
Chun publicly apologized in November, 1988, for misdeeds during his time in office, then spent more than a year in a remote Buddhist monastery. He returned to Seoul in 1990 and had kept a low profile since then.
South Korea's current political crisis began when Roh confessed in October to accumulating a $653-million slush fund while in office. He was jailed on bribery charges in mid-November.
By moving now against Chun, Kim further exacerbates a deep split within the ruling Democratic Liberal Party between those who come from a background of support for Kim and those whose political roots lie with Chun and Roh.
Whether out of genuine fear of military attack or from political expediency, as some critics suspected, Kim warned Friday that South Korea's political upheaval could prompt dangerous miscalculations by Communist North Korea.
"Our political and social atmosphere could be read as a sign of a weakened security posture," Kim told a conference called to boost defense cooperation among the military, government officials and citizens. "We must firmly cope with any aggressive attempts by the North Koreans."
While the North-South border in Korea remains one of the world's most dangerous tension spots, authorities here traditionally warn of North Korean threats at times of domestic crisis in order to rally citizens around the government.
Lt. Gen. Kim Dong Shin, director of operations for South Korea's joint chiefs of staff, told reporters at the news conference that since Oct. 20, North Korea has deployed 80 bombers and fighters at airfields close to the heavily fortified demilitarized zone that divides the two Koreas.
The aircraft relocation cuts a precious two minutes from the warning time available for South Korean forces to respond to any attempted attack on Seoul, reducing it to six minutes, he said.
"North Korean authorities are intentionally raising tension to divert [the] North Korean people's discontent to the outside and consolidate their power grip," President Kim charged. "We should be prepared for their provocations committed out of desperation."
South Korean media showed skepticism about the warnings.