71 Facts About Chun Doo-hwan


Chun Doo-hwan was a South Korean army general and military dictator who ruled as an unelected strongman from 1979 to 1980 before replacing Choi Kyu-hah as president of South Korea from 1980 to 1988.


Chun Doo-hwan orchestrated the 12 December 1979 military coup, then cemented his military dictatorship in the 17 May 1980 military coup in which he declared martial law and later set up a concentration camp for "purificatory education".


Chun Doo-hwan established the highly authoritarian Fifth Republic of Korea on 3 March 1981.


In 1996, Chun Doo-hwan was sentenced to death for his role in the suppression of the Gwangju Uprising which led to the deaths of hundreds, possibly thousands, of citizens.


Chun Doo-hwan was pardoned the following year, along with Roh Tae-woo who had been sentenced to 17 years, by President Kim Young-sam, on the advice of the incoming President-elect Kim Dae-jung whom Chun Doo-hwan's administration had sentenced to death some 20 years earlier.


Chun Doo-hwan died on 23 November 2021 at the age of 90 after a relapse of myeloma.


Chun Doo-hwan was born on 18 January 1931 in Yul-Gok myeon, a poor farming town in Hapcheon County, South Gyeongsang Province, Korea.


Chun Doo-hwan's 14th generation ancestor, Jeon Je was a military officer who was executed for violating the orders of Gwon Yul during the Imjin War.


Chun Doo-hwan was the fourth son out of ten children to Chun Sang-woo and Kim Jeong-mun.


Chun Doo-hwan's oldest two brothers, Yeol-hwan and Kyuu-gon, died in an accident when he was an infant.


Chun Doo-hwan grew up knowing his remaining older brother Ki-hwan and his younger brother Kyeong-hwan.


Around 1936, Chun Doo-hwan's family moved to Daegu, where he began attending Horan Elementary School.


Chun Doo-hwan's father had run-ins with the kempeitai in the past; in the winter of 1939 he murdered a police captain.


When Chun Doo-hwan finally started attending elementary school again, he was two years behind his original classmates.


Chun Doo-hwan graduated in February 1955 with a Bachelor of Science degree and a commission as a second lieutenant in the 11th class of the KMA.


Chun Doo-hwan later trained in the United States, specializing in guerilla tactics and psychological warfare, and married Lee Soon-ja, the daughter of the KMA's commandant at the time of his attendance, in 1958.


Chun Doo-hwan was made secretary to the commander of the Supreme Council for National Reconstruction, placing him directly under Park.


Chun Doo-hwan was quickly promoted to major in 1962, while continuing to make powerful friends and acquaintances.


In 1963, Chun Doo-hwan was given a position in the Korean Central Intelligence Agency as Personnel Director.


In 1970, holding the rank of colonel, Chun Doo-hwan became the commander of the 29th Regiment, South Korean 9th Infantry Division, and participated in the Vietnam War.


Chun Doo-hwan formed Hanahoe as a secret military club shortly after his promotion to general officer.


Chun Doo-hwan immediately ordered his subordinates to draw up plans for the creation of an all-powerful "Joint Investigation Headquarters".


Chun Doo-hwan had each person searched at the door on his way in, before having them seated and informing them of the President's death.


Chun Doo-hwan declared the KCIA held full responsibility for the President's assassination, and its organization was therefore under investigation for the crime.


Chun Doo-hwan stated that the KCIA would no longer be allowed to exercise its own budget:.


In one move, Chun Doo-hwan had taken control of the entire nation's intelligence organizations.


Chun Doo-hwan then put the KCIA Deputy Chief of Foreign Affairs in charge of running the day-to-day business of the KCIA.


On 12 December 1979, Chun Doo-hwan ordered the arrest of Army Chief of Staff Jeong Seung-hwa on charges of conspiring with Kim Jae-kyu to assassinate the President.


In early 1980, Chun Doo-hwan was promoted to the rank of lieutenant general, and he took up the position of acting director of the KCIA.


On 17 May 1980, Chun Doo-hwan expanded martial law to the entire country, due to stated rumors of North Korean infiltration into South Korea.


Chun Doo-hwan ordered it to be immediately suppressed, sending in crack military troops with tanks and helicopter gunships to retake City Hall and ordered the troops to exercise full force.


In June 1980, Chun Doo-hwan ordered the National Assembly to be dissolved.


Chun Doo-hwan subsequently created the Special Committee for National Security Measures, a junta-like organization, and installed himself as a member.


Chun Doo-hwan was officially inaugurated into office on 1 September 1980.


However, Chun Doo-hwan's election was a foregone conclusion after the DJP's decisive victory at elections for the National Conference two weeks earlier.


Chun Doo-hwan announced that he would be restoring justice to the government to remove the fraud and corruption of Park's tenure.


Chun Doo-hwan needed to be recognized by the United States to legitimize his government.


In 1981, Chun Doo-hwan enacted "Care and Custody" legislation; Chun Doo-hwan believed that criminals who finish their prison time for a repeat offense should not be immediately returned to society.


In 1981, Chun Doo-hwan held a large-scale festival called "Korean Breeze '81 [Kukpung81]", but it was largely ignored by the population.


In 1983, Chun Doo-hwan was the target of a failed assassination attempt by North Korean agents during a visit to Rangoon, Burma.


The North Korean bombing killed 17 of Chun Doo-hwan's entourage, including cabinet ministers.


Chun Doo-hwan's presidency occurred during the Cold War, and his foreign policies were based around combating communism not only from North Korea and Soviet Union.


Japanese newspapers widely reported that Chun Doo-hwan was the de facto leader of the country months before he made any move to become President.


In 1982, Chun Doo-hwan announced the "Korean People Harmony Democracy Reunification Program", but due to repeated rejections from North Korea the program was unable to get off the ground.


When that became widely known, those supporting Chun Doo-hwan's regime were highly critical of his choice of successor.


Chun Doo-hwan was eventually persuaded to reverse his position and ceased pushing for Noh Shin-yeong to succeed him.


Unlike his predecessors, Chun Doo-hwan was unable to amend the document in order to run again in 1987; the constitution explicitly stated that any amendments extending a president's term would not apply to the incumbent.


On 13 April 1987, Chun Doo-hwan made the "April 13th Defense of the Constitution speech".


Chun Doo-hwan declared that the DJP candidate for president would be one of his military supporters, and his successor would be chosen in an indirect election similar to the one that elected Chun seven years earlier.


On 10 July 1987, Chun Doo-hwan resigned as head of the Democratic Justice Party, remaining its Honorary Chairman but handing official leadership of the upcoming campaign to Roh.


Chun Doo-hwan finished out his term and handed over the presidency to Roh on 25 February 1988, the first peaceful transition of power in the history of South Korea.


In February 1988, during the presidency of Roh Tae-woo, Chun Doo-hwan was named chair of the National Statesman Committee and so wielded considerable influence in South Korean politics.


On 11 November 1988, Chun Doo-hwan apologized to the nation in a public address, pledging to give his money and belongings back to the country.


Chun Doo-hwan resigned from both the National Statesman Committee and the Democratic Justice Party.


On 30 December 1990, Chun Doo-hwan left Baekdamsa and returned home.


Chun Doo-hwan was officially convicted of leading an insurrection, conspiracy to commit insurrection, taking part in an insurrection, illegal troop movement orders, dereliction of duty during martial law, murder of superior officers, attempted murder of superior officers, murder of subordinate troops, leading a rebellion, conspiracy to commit rebellion, taking part in a rebellion, and murder for the purpose of rebellion, as well as assorted crimes relating to bribery.


The National Assembly passed a bill called the Chun Doo-hwan Act, extending the statute of limitations on confiscating assets from public officials who have failed to pay fines.


In October 2017, Chun Doo-hwan reissued his memoirs prompting a second lawsuit to be filed against him.


In March 2019, Chun Doo-hwan appeared in a libel trial in Gwangju over his controversial memoirs, in which he allegedly defamed victims of his 1980 crackdown.


Chun Doo-hwan had refuted a testimony by the late activist priest, Cho Chul-hyun, and called him "Satan wearing a mask" in his memoirs.


On 30 November 2020, Chun Doo-hwan was found guilty of defaming Cho Chul-hyun and was sentenced to eight months in prison, suspended for two years.


Chun Doo-hwan proceeded to appeal the sentence but failed to show up to the first and second appellate trials held on 10 May and 14 June 2021.


Chun Doo-hwan made his first appearance in the Gwangju District appellate court on 9 August 2021 accompanied by his wife, but looking gaunt and frail.


Chun Doo-hwan left the courtroom only 25 minutes into the hearing, due to breathing difficulties.


Chun Doo-hwan answered some of the judge's questions with the help of his wife and was seen dozing off.


Chun Doo-hwan died at his home in Yeonhui-dong, Seoul, on 23 November 2021 from complications of blood cancer.


Chun Doo-hwan died less than one month after his successor Roh Tae-woo.


Since Chun Doo-hwan never apologized for his role in the Gwangju Massacre and his past crimes, the Blue House only expressed private condolences to his family via a spokesperson, and announced that there was no plan to send wreaths.


Chun Doo-hwan's remains were taken to Seoul's Severance Hospital, where it was to be cremated before burial.


Chun Doo-hwan called his grandfather a "slaughterer" and described him as a criminal rather than a hero.


Chun Doo-hwan made apologies for what his grandfather had done and consoled relatives of those who died in Gwangju.