Chun Doo-hwan

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Chun Doo-hwan
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Took Office: September 1, 1980
Left Office: February 25, 1988
Predecessor: Choi Kyu-ha
Successor: Roh Tae-woo
Date of Birth: January 8, 1931
Place of Birth: Hapcheon, Korea
Korean Name
Hangul: 전두환
Hanja: 全斗煥
Revised Romanization: Jeon Du-hwan
McCune-Reischauer: Chŏn Tu-hwan
Political party: none

Chun Doo-hwan (born 18 January, 1931) was a Korean military officer and the President of South Korea from 1980 to 1988. He established an authoritarian constitution.


The road to power

Chun was a graduate of the eleventh class of the Korean Military Academy in 1955. As head of the Army Security Command, he was in charge of the investigation into the assassination of President Park Chung-hee. On 12 December 1979, in what became known as the Coup d'้tat of December Twelfth, Chun ordered the arrest of Army Chief of Staff General Chung Sung Hwa (정승화, 鄭昇和) without authorization from then-President Choi Kyu-ha, alleging involvement in the assassination. This led to a bloody shoot-out at the Army Headquarters and the Ministry of Defense. By the next morning, Chun and his fellow eleventh class military academy graduates Roh Tae-woo and Jeong Ho-yong were in charge of the Korean military.

On 17 May 1980, Chun expanded martial law to the entire country and dissolved the National Assembly. Many politicians were arrested, including opposition politician Kim Dae-jung, who was later sentenced to death despite protests from the U.S. Later, Chun commuted Kim's sentence in return for U.S. support. Protests across the nation were ruthlessly suppressed, most brutally in Gwangju, where hundreds -- by some accounts thousands -- of demonstrators were killed in the Gwangju Massacre.

Chun was the de facto leader of South Korea by then. In August, an embattled Choi had resigned; in February 1981, Chun was elected president under a revised constitution, having resigned from the army after promoting himself to four-star general.

Years in office

As president, Chun promoted strong centralized government, and the rapid economic growth of the Park Chung Hee era continued. Chun pledged that he would step down in 1988 instead of seeking another term as president. It soon became clear that Chun had hand-picked Roh Tae-woo to succeed him. By 1986, there was much public antipathy against Chun's regime due to the lack of political freedom and Chun's strongman tactics.

Ordinary citizens of South Korea's newly-prospering middle class joined in the nationwide, student-led June 1987 protests. In the same month, U.S. President Ronald Reagan sent a letter to Chun in support of the establishment of "democratic institutions." Following these events, on June 29th, Roh announced a programme of reform that made major concessions to the protesters. This included direct presidential elections, restoration of banned politicians including Kim Dae-jung, and other liberalizing measures. Chun accepted these reforms. This won Roh instant popularity, and helped by a divided opposition, he was elected as the next president of South Korea. It later became known that this was a move orchestrated by Chun.

An embattled ex-President

After he stepped down, under the freer political atmosphere, much public scrutiny fell upon the faults of Chun's regime, including the massive corruption involving his family. On November 23, 1988, the embattled Chun chose to go into the Baekdamsa Buddhist temple as a symbolic gesture of repentance for the excesses of his regime. He spent two years in Baekdamsa.

In 1996, former presidents Chun and Roh were jailed on charges of corruption. On 16 December, they were also convicted of treason and mutiny connected with their takeover of power. Chun was initially sentenced to death, which was later commuted to a life sentence. He and Roh were pardoned a year later in a move of conciliation initiated by President-elect Kim Dae Jung.

External links

Preceded by:
Choi Kyu-ha
President of South Korea
Succeeded by:
Roh Tae-woo

Template:End boxde:Chun Doo-hwan ko:전두환 ja:全斗煥 zh:全斗煥


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