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Former President of South Korea Refuses to Testify

November 14, 1996|From Associated Press

SEOUL — Forced to appear in court, a former president claimed immunity today and refused to testify against his two successors.

Choi Kyu Hah, a figurehead leader for eight months in 1979-80, was ordered to testify in the appeals trial of Chun Doo Hwan and Roh Tae Woo, former presidents convicted of mutiny and treason in August. Chun was sentenced to death and Roh to 22 1/2 years in prison.

Choi took the witness stand but refused to take an oath despite a court warning. He read a written statement repeating his contention that his testimony would violate presidential immunity.

Choi previously ignored two court summons to testify, for which he was fined $120. He faced a $120 fine again for refusing to testify today.

Choi's testimony is considered crucial to clarifying a series of events that led Chun and Roh to power after a 1979 mutiny and subsequent coup.

Meanwhile, the wife of a former Cabinet minister was arrested today on bribery charges a day after her husband became the third Cabinet minister to resign in less than a month.

Lee Sung Ho left the Health and Welfare Ministry on Wednesday after prosecutors accused his wife of taking $207,000 in bribes from an optometrists' association. His wife, Park Sung Ae, was arrested early today. Prosecutors did not hold Lee, saying they found no evidence that he was aware his wife had received bribes.

The latest scandal was a blow to President Kim Young Sam, who has repeatedly promised to end widespread corruption.

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