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Chun Doo-hwan, South Korea’s most vilified ex-military dictator, dies at 90

Dissidents, student activists and journalists have been dragged to torture chambers. As part of Mr. Chun’s “social cleansing” program, the government rounded up tens of thousands of gangsters, homeless people, political dissidents and others considered to be unhealthy elements of society and brought them down. taken by truck to military barracks for brutal re-education. Hundreds of people are believed to have died as part of the program.

North Korea attempted to assassinate Mr. Chun on his way to Burma, now known as Myanmar, in 1983. Bombs planted by his agents destroyed the Martyrs’ Mausoleum in Yangon (formerly Rangoon) , then the Burmese capital, and killed 21 people, including several South Korean ministers. Mr. Chun escaped the attack because his arrival there was delayed.

Deeply unpopular, Mr. Chun wanted his handpicked successor, Mr. Roh, to be elected by the same approved constituency. But amid massive protests sparked by the death of a tortured student activist, he and Mr. Roh joined a popular election.

Mr Roh became the country’s first directly elected president in 16 years, largely thanks to the division of opposition votes between the two dissident candidates, Kim Young-sam and Kim Dae-jung, whose mutual mistrust was as deep as their common hatred of the military reigning.

Mr. Chun tried to appease the public calling for his punishment by going into domestic exile in a remote Buddhist monastery. But after Kim Young-sam took power in 1993, he took on Mr. Chun, Mr. Roh and other former generals once considered untouchables.

Mr. Chun was going to the bathroom on Tuesday with the help of his wife, Lee Soon-ja, when he collapsed, said a senior police officer who was responsible for guarding Mr. Chun’s residence in Seoul. Besides his wife, he is survived by their four children, Jae-yong, Hyo-sun, Jae-guk and Jae-man.

In a 1997 Supreme Court ruling, Mr. Chun was ordered to return 220 billion won, or $ 190 million, to the state he illegally accumulated through bribes. He said he did not have enough to pay the fine, although critics accused him of hiding property from relatives.

nytimes Gt

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