Sixteen Years Later South Korea Remains Determined to Recover Chun Doo Hwan's Illicit Assets
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
July 19, 2013
Summary: Chun Doo Hwan trumpeted anti-corruption rhetoric. But as soon his power was consolidated, he wantonly engaged in plunder. When the story came to light, he pleaded not guilty. He engaged in all manner of evasion. He secretly transferred vast sums of money abroad or to his children and their families. Compare this to former ROC President Chen Shui-bian's corruption and imprisonment. His family members continue to live in the lap of luxury. The two differ little, if any.
Full text below:
The South Korean State Prosecutor's Office recently dispatched personnel to 17 locations. It conducted large scale raids on the homes and offices of former President Chun Doo Hwan and his children. It attempted to track down Chun's hidden assets. Prosecutors confiscated nearly 200 expensive paintings, porcelains, and other art items. They also forbade Chun Doo Hwan's three children from leaving the country.
Chun Doo Hwan was convicted in 1997, over 16 years ago. The South Korean legal system and the public have never ceased their quest to recover South Korean President Chun Doo Hwan's illegally obtained assets. Last month South Korea passed a "Confiscation Regulations Act" directed at civil servants. It extended the statute of limitations for the prosecution of civil servants who illegally acquire assets. It expands the scope of recovery to third parties. The law is nicknamed after Chun Doo Hwan and targets him in particular. The old law providing for the recovery of assets would have lapsed in October of this year. The amended law will allow the recovery of assets until 2020.
The South Korean prosecutors' raid on Tuesday was conducted under the aegis of the new law. Prosecutors believe Chun Doo Hwan evaded government asset recovery efforts. They believe he transferred vast sums of illegal assets to family members and friends. As a result, the social networking company operated by Chun Jeon Jae, the eldest son of Chun Doo Hwan, and companies and property owned by his two other sons and two daughters were searched. The problem now is how to determine what assets were hidden by Chun Doo Hwan.
Chun Doo Hwan's reign lasted from 1980 until 1988. South Korean political history refers to this period as the "Fifth Republic." Chun Doo Hwan and his successor Roh Tae-woo ruled for 13 years. They colluded with private industry and misappropriated funds. After Kim Yong Sam took office, the Chun and Roh became targets of investigation. In 1997 Chun Doo Hwan was convicted by the South Korean Grand Court of staging a military coup, fomenting domestic strife, corruption, bribery, and other crimes punishable by life imprisonment. This was the trial of the century. The two outgoing presidents, dressed in prison uniforms, faces solemn, stood before the court and awaited their sentences. These were images the Korean people will not soon forget.
The court sentenced Chun Doo Hwan to life imprisonment. It fined him 220.5 billion won, approximately 5.8 billion NT. But Chun Doo Hwan received a presidential pardon from Kim Dae Jun. The following year, Chun was released from prison. Over the past 16 years, Chun Doo Hwan has paid back only 53.300 billion won. The lion's share, 167.2 billion won, approximately 4.4 billion NT, remains unpaid. In 2003, he was asked to declare his assets. Chun Doo Hwan claimed that "My savings account contains only 290,000 won." He adopted a "I intend to stonewall" attitude. Prosecutors were at a loss. But last fall, Chun Doo Hwan teed off at a newly opened golf course. He sipped fine wine with friends in a party-like atmosphere. The images were made public. People were outraged. They demanded a thorough investigation into his illicit assets. The South Korean media believes Chun Doo Hwan transferred illicit assets to his children. They estimate the total at one trillion won.
The statute of limitations on the recovery of illicit assets from Chun Doo Hwan was about to run out in October of this year. But the South Korean legislature amended the law in late June. It extended the statute of limitations for civil servants' illicit assets. It expanded the scope of the law to cover third parties. Upon taking office, President Park Geun-hye aggressively promoted the bill, in response to public outrage over corruption. For the South Korean Prosecutor's Office, it was an opportunity to ride a wave of public sentiment. It launched a massive search operation. It even brought in metal detectors. It was determined to communicate the government's resolve to recover public assets from a corrupt president.
On the day Chun Doo Hwan's residence was searched, Chun told investigators, "As a former President, the public spectacle has made it impossible for me to show my face in public." But his remark is likely to make South Koreans even more disgusted. Time and again, the people gave Chun the opportunity to repent. Yet he hypocritically went through the motions, and never honestly confronted his wrongdoing.
Chun Doo Hwan came from a military background. But his corruption was no different from that of the typical politician. During his term, he trumpeted anti-corruption rhetoric. He vowed to eliminate corruption. But as soon his power was consolidated, he began to manipulate his situation, and wantonly engaged in plunder. When the story came to light, he pleaded not guilty. He engaged in all manner of evasion. He secretly transferred vast sums of money abroad or to his children and their families. Compare this to former ROC President Chen Shui-bian's corruption and imprisonment. His family members continue to live in the lap of luxury. The two differ little, if any.
After Chun Doo Hwan was pardoned, he and his wife retreated to Baekdamsa Temple in the mountains of South Korea. He expressed repentance. He lived for two years without water or electricity, He lived on "bread and water." He affected a monastic lifestyle. But in fact he did not engage in serious soul-searching. Once he returned to secular life, his extravagance only intensified. South Korean prosecutors suspect that his methods for dealing with illicit funds were even more devious
History shows that corrupt individuals who genuinely repent are few and far between.
2013.07.19 03:41 am