Chun Doo-hwan
Chun Doo-hwan was a ROK Army general and the President
President of South Korea
The President of the Republic of Korea is, according to the Constitution of the Republic of Korea, chief executive of the government, commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and the head of state of the Republic of Korea...

 of South Korea
South Korea
The Republic of Korea , , is a sovereign state in East Asia, located on the southern portion of the Korean Peninsula. It is neighbored by the People's Republic of China to the west, Japan to the east, North Korea to the north, and the East China Sea and Republic of China to the south...

 from 1980 to 1988. Chun was sentenced to death in 1996 for his heavy-handed response to the Gwangju Democratization Movement, but later pardoned by President Kim Young-sam
Kim Young-sam
Kim Young-sam was a South Korean politician and democratic activist. From 1961, he spent 30 years as South Korea's leader of the opposition, and one of Park Chung-hee's most powerful rivals....

 with the advice of then President-elect Kim Dae-jung, whom Chun himself had sentenced to death some 20 years earlier.

Early years

Chun was born 18 January 1931 in Yulgok-myeon, a poor farming town in Hapcheon
Hapcheon County is a county in South Gyeongsang Province, South Korea. Famous people born in the county include former South Korean president Chun Doo-hwan.-Location:...

, South Gyeongsang
Gyeongsangnam-do is a province in the southeast of South Korea. The provincial capital is located at Changwon. It contains the major metropolitan center and port of Busan. Located there is UNESCO World Heritage Site Haeinsa, a Buddhist temple that houses the Tripitaka Koreana and attracts many...

 province, during Japanese rule of Korea
Korea under Japanese rule
Korea was under Japanese rule as part of Japan's 35-year imperialist expansion . Japanese rule ended in 1945 shortly after the Japanese defeat in World War II....

. Chun Doo-hwan was the fourth son of Chun Sang-woo and Kim Jeong-mun. Chun's oldest two brothers, Yeol-hwan and Kyuu-gon, died in an accident when he was an infant. Chun grew up knowing his remaining older brother Ki-hwan and younger brother Kyeong-hwan.

Around 1936, Chun's family moved to Daegu
Daegu , also known as Taegu, and officially the Daegu Metropolitan City, is a city in South Korea, the fourth largest after Seoul, Busan, and Incheon, and the third largest metropolitan area in the country with over 2.5 million residents. The city is the capital and principal city of the...

, where he began attending Horan Elementary School. Chun's father had had run-ins with the Japanese police
The was the military police arm of the Imperial Japanese Army from 1881 to 1945. It was not an English-style military police, but a French-style gendarmerie...

 in the past, and in the winter of 1939 he murdered a Japanese police captain. Their family immediately fled to Jilin
Jilin , is a province of the People's Republic of China located in the northeastern part of the country. Jilin borders North Korea and Russia to the east, Heilongjiang to the north, Liaoning to the south, and Inner Mongolia to the west...

, China, where they stayed in hiding for two years before returning. When Chun finally started attending elementary school again, he ended up 2–3 years behind his original classmates.

In 1947, Chun began attending Daegu Vocational Middle School, located nearly 25 km from his home. Chun moved on to Daegu Vocational High School, getting exceptional grades during the outbreak of the Korean War
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...


Military History

After graduating high school in 1951, Chun gained entry into the prestigious Korea Military Academy
Korea Military Academy
Korea Military Academy or KMA is a Republic of Korea Army institution for the undergraduate education and military training of officer cadets. It is located in Nowon-gu, a northeast district of Seoul, South Korea...

 (KMA) that year. While there, he made several key friends among the students who would later play instrumental roles to help Chun seize control of the country many years later. He graduated in February 1955 as an Army 2nd Lieutenant in the 11th class of the KMA.

Chun, then a captain, led a demonstration at the KMA during the 16 May 1961 military coup d’état to show support for Park Chung-hee
Park Chung-hee
Park Chung-hee was a Republic of Korea Army general and the leader of South Korea from 1961 to 1979. He seized power in a military coup and ruled until his assassination in 1979. He has been credited with the industrialization of the Republic of Korea through export-led growth...

 to be installed as President. Chun was subsequently made Secretary to the Commander of the Supreme Council for Reconstruction, placing him directly under Park. Chun was quickly promoted to Major in 1962, while continuing to make powerful friends and acquaintances. As a Major, Chun was the Deputy Chief of Operations for the Special Warfare Command
Special Warfare Command
Republic of Korea Army Special Warfare Command is the military command of the Republic of Korea Army responsible for their special operation forces...

's battle headquarters, and later worked for the Supreme Council for Reconstruction again as the Chief Civil Affairs Officer. In 1963, Chun was given a position in the Korean Central Intelligence Agency
National Intelligence Service (South Korea)
The National Intelligence Service is the chief intelligence agency of South Korea. The agency was officially established in 1961 as the Korea Central Intelligence Agency , during the rule of President Park Chung-hee's military Supreme Council for National Reconstruction, which displaced the...

 (KCIA) as Personnel Director. By 1969, he was the Senior Advisor to the Army Chief of Staff.

In 1970, holding the rank of Colonel, Chun became the commander of the 29th Regiment, 9th Infantry Division, and participated in the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

. Upon returning to Korea in 1971, he was given command of the 1st Special Forces Brigade (Airborne) and later promoted to One-star General. In 1976 he worked as the Deputy Chief of the Presidential Security Service
Presidential Security Service
Presidential Security Service , or PSS for short, is a South Korean close protection agency. Based on the United States Secret Service, the South Korean PSS is an independent agency responsible for the protection of the President of South Korea and the Blue House.The unit is currently being...

 and was promoted to the rank of Two-star General during his time there. In 1978 he became the commanding officer of the 1st Infantry Division.

Finally, in 1979, he was appointed commander of Security Command
Defense Security Command
The Republic of Korea Armed Forces's Defense Security Command was founded as the "Army Counterintelligence Corps" on October 21, 1950, and it functioned as the primary organization within the military charged with internal security, preservation of loyalty to the regime, and deterrence and...

, his highest position yet.


Chun formed Hanahoe as a secret military club shortly after his promotion to general officer, made up mostly of graduates from his 11th class of the Korea Military Academy and other friends and supporters.

Assassination of President Park Chung-hee

On 26 October 1979, South Korean President Park Chung-hee
Park Chung-hee
Park Chung-hee was a Republic of Korea Army general and the leader of South Korea from 1961 to 1979. He seized power in a military coup and ruled until his assassination in 1979. He has been credited with the industrialization of the Republic of Korea through export-led growth...

 was assassinated by Kim Jae-kyu, Director of the KCIA
National Intelligence Service (South Korea)
The National Intelligence Service is the chief intelligence agency of South Korea. The agency was officially established in 1961 as the Korea Central Intelligence Agency , during the rule of President Park Chung-hee's military Supreme Council for National Reconstruction, which displaced the...

, while at a dinner party. Secretly, Kim had invited General Jeong Seung-hwa, Army Chief of Staff, and Kim Jeong-seop, Vice-Deputy Director of the KCIA, to dinner in another room that night as well. Although Jeong Seung-hwa was neither present during nor involved in the shooting of the President, his involvement later proved crucial. In the chaos that followed, Kim Jae-kyu was not arrested for many hours as details of the incident were initially unclear.

After hours of confusion over the constitutional procedures for presidential succession, Prime Minister Choi Kyu-ha finally ascended to the position of Acting President. Soon after, General Jeong Seung-hwa
Jeong Seung-hwa
Jeong Seung-hoa was South Korean soldier, and the 22nd ROK Army Chief of Staff. He was in Gungjeong-dong during the assassination of President Park Chung-hee....

 named Chun's Security Command to head up the investigation into the mysterious assassination. Chun immediately ordered his subordinates to draw up plans for the creation of an all-powerful "Joint Investigation Headquarters."

On 27 October, Chun called for a meeting in his commander's office. Invited were four key individuals now responsible for all intelligence collection nation-wide: KCIA Deputy Chief of Foreign Affairs, KCIA Deputy Chief of Domestic Affairs, Attorney General, and Chief of the National Police. Chun had each person searched at the door at their way in, before having them seated and informing them of the President's passing. Chun declared the KCIA held full responsibility for the President's assassination, and its organization was therefore under investigation for the crime. Chun stated that the KCIA would no longer be allowed to exercise its own budget:
Chun subsequently ordered all intelligence reports to now be sent to his office at 8:00am and 5:00pm every day, so he can decide what information to give higher command. In one move, Chun had taken control of the entire nation's intelligence organizations. Chun then put the KCIA Deputy Chief of Foreign Affairs in charge of running the day-to-day business of the KCIA.

Major Park Jun-kwang, working under Chun at the time, later commented:

December 12th coup d’état

In the following month Chun, along with Roh Tae-woo
Roh Tae-woo
Roh Tae-woo , is a former ROK Army general and politician. He was the 13th president of South Korea .Roh befriended Chun Doo-hwan while in high school in Daegu. In his younger life, Roh was a keen rugby union player....

, Jeong Ho-yong, Yu Hak-seong, Heo Sam-su, and others from the 11th graduating class of the KMA, continued taking advantage of the fragile political situation to grow Hanahoe's strength, courting key commanders and subverting the nation's intelligence gathering organizations.

On 12 December 1979, Chun acted without authorization from President Choi Kyu-ha, illegally ordering the arrest of Army Chief of Staff Jeong Seung-hwa on charges of conspiring with Kim Jae-kyu to assassinate the President. During his arrest a gun-fight broke out, killing Major Kim Oh-rang, advisor to General Jeong.

Consolidation of power

In early 1980, Chun was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General, and he took up the position of Acting Director of the KCIA. On April 14, Chun was officially installed as Director of the KCIA.

Gwangju Democratization Movement and military intervention

On 17 May 1980, Chun expanded martial law to the entire country, allegedly due to rumors of North Korean infiltration into South Korea. To enforce the martial law, troops were dispatched to various parts of the nation KCIA manipulated this rumors under the command of Chun. General Wickham(US Armed Forces in Korea) reported that Chun's pessimistic assessment of the domestic situation and his stress on the North Korean threat seemed only a pretext for a move into the Blue House(The Korean Presidential House). The expanded martial law closed universities, banned political activities and further curtailed the press. The event of May 17 means the beginning of another military dictatorship.

Many townsfolk were growing unhappy with the military presence in their cities, and on May 18, the citizens of Gwangju
Gwangju is the sixth largest city in South Korea. It is a designated metropolitan city under the direct control of the central government's Home Minister...

 organized into what became known as the Gwanju Democratization Movement. Chun ordered it to be immediately suppressed, sending in military troops to clear the large number of demonstrators from the city. This led to a bloody massacre over the next two days, ultimately leading to the collapse of the Gwangju Democratization Movement and the deaths of several hundred Gwangju activists.

Path to the Presidency

In June 1980, Chun ordered the National Assembly to be dissolved. He subsequently created the National Defense Emergency Policy Committee, and installed himself as a member. On 17 July, he resigned his position of KCIA Director, and then held only the position of committee member.

On 5 August, he was promoted to full General, and on 22 August he was discharged from active duty to the Army reserves.

11th President of South Korea (1980-1981)

In August 1980, President Choi Kyu-ha announced that he would be resigning the presidency. On August 27, the National Conference for Unification, then the puppet electoral college of South Korea, elected Chun as President in an indirect election
Indirect election
Indirect election is a process in which voters in an election don't actually choose between candidates for an office but rather elect persons who will then make the choice. It is one of the oldest form of elections and is still used today for many upper houses and presidents...

, as he was the only running candidate. He was officially inaugurated into office on September 1st 1980 as the 11th President of South Korea.

On 17 October, he ordered the dissolution of all political parties by force, to include the "Democratic Republican Party" that held total power during Park Chung-hee's authoritarian rule. In January 1981, Chun formed his own political party, the Democratic Justice Party
Democratic Justice Party
The Democratic Justice Party was the ruling party of South Korea from 1980 to 1990.It was formed in 1980 as the Democratic Republican Party and was the political vehicle for Chun Doo-hwan....

; however, for all intents and purposes, it was Park's Democratic Republican Party under another name. Soon afterward, Chun adopted a new constitution that, while far less authoritarian than Park's Yusin Constitution, still gave fairly broad powers to the president. He was then elected president in his own right, becoming the 12th President of South Korea in February 1981.

"Missile Memorandum"

In 1980, in the face of increased tension with the U.S over his military takeover, President Chun issued a memorandum stating that his country will not develop missiles with a range longer than 180 km or capable of carrying greater than a 453 kg warhead. After receiving this promise, the Reagan administration
Reagan Administration
The United States presidency of Ronald Reagan, also known as the Reagan administration, was a Republican administration headed by Ronald Reagan from January 20, 1981, to January 20, 1989....

 decided to fully recognize Chun's military government.

In the late 1990s, South Korea and the U.S. held talks on the issue and, rather than scrap the memorandum completely, they came to an agreement allowing missiles up to 300 km in range and capability to carry up to a 500 kg warhead. This compromise came into effect in 2001 under the name Missile Technology Control Regime
Missile Technology Control Regime
The Missile Technology Control Regime is an informal and voluntary partnership between 34 countries to prevent the proliferation of missile and unmanned aerial vehicle technology capable of carrying a 500 kg payload at least 300 km....


12th President of South Korea (1981-1988)

After being elected the 12th President of South Korea in February 1981, Chun completely rejected the presidency of Park Chung-hee, even going so far as to strike all references to Park's 1961 military rebellion
April Revolution
The April Revolution, sometimes called the April 19 Revolution or April 19 Movement, was a popular uprising in April 1960, led by labor and student groups, which overthrew the autocratic First Republic of South Korea under Syngman Rhee. It led to the peaceful resignation of Rhee and the transition...

 from the constitution. Chun announced that he would be restoring justice to the government to remove the fraud and corruption of the Park Chung-hee presidency,
starting with abolishing the practice of running for more than one presidential term, and setting the maximum presidential term limit to seven years. Chun outlined his main goals as rescuing social welfare programs, stabilizing prices, stamping out crime, economic development, successful preparations for the 1988 Seoul Olympics, and realization of positive international trade figures.

Chun ruled in an authoritarian manner. However, he had far less power than Park, and for the most part his rule was somewhat milder.

Plans to develop nuclear weapons

There is a theory that president Chun tried to develop the nuclear weapon in 1980’s and gave up the project by the claim of US
Chun's government did not have the considerable political influence enjoyed by Park Chung-hee's regime. His government could not ignore the wishes of the U.S., and he had no choice but to give up development of nuclear weapons. Chun worried about the state of South Korean-U.S. relations, which had greatly deteriorated towards the end of Park Chung-hee's long authoritarian rule, and Chun needed recognition by the U.S. to legitimize his government.

Political Reforms

After his inauguration, Chun clamped down on out-of-school tutoring and banned individual instruction or tutoring.

In September 1980, Chun repealed the "guilt by association" laws.

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

In the winter of 1984, before declaring a moratorium on the Korean economy, Chun visited Japan and requested a loan for $6 billion.

With the military coup taking power and crushing the democratization movements country-wide, the citizens' political demands were being ignored, and in this way the 3S Policy (Sex, Screen, Sports) was passed. Based on right-way Japanese activist Sejima Ryuujo's proposal, Chun tried to appeal to the citizens in order to ensure the success of the 1988 Seoul Olympics preparations. Chun rapidly enacted various measures to this end, forming a pro baseball and pro soccer team, starting the broadcast of color TV throughout the nation as a whole, lessening censorship on sexually suggestive dramas and movies, making school uniforms voluntary, and so forth.

In 1981, Chun held a large-scale festival called "Korean Breeze", but it was largely ignored by the population.

Assassination attempt

A failed assassination attempt took place in 1983 by North Korea
North Korea
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea , , is a country in East Asia, occupying the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. Its capital and largest city is Pyongyang. The Korean Demilitarized Zone serves as the buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea...

n agents during his visit to Myanmar. The bombing killed 17 of Chun's entourage including cabinet ministers while four Myanmar officials also died.

Foreign policy

Chun's presidency occurred during the height of the cold war, and his foreign policies are based around combating communism not only from North Korea, but also from the Soviet Union and Communist China.

Relations with the United States

The U.S. put pressure on the Korean government to cease plans to develop nuclear weapons.

Relations with Japan

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

Relations with North Korea

In 1982, Chun 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.

Relations with the Philippines

Also from 1986 to 1988, he and President
A president is a leader of an organization, company, trade union, university, or country.Etymologically, a president is one who presides, who sits in leadership...

 Corazon Aquino
Corazon Aquino
Maria Corazon Sumulong Cojuangco-Aquino was the 11th President of the Philippines and the first woman to hold that office in Philippine history. She is best remembered for leading the 1986 People Power Revolution, which toppled Ferdinand Marcos and restored democracy in the Philippines...

 of the Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

 established its talks between the two countries for strengthening Philippine-South Korean economic, social and cultural friendship.

Noh Shin-yeong

From the start of his presidency, Chun began grooming Noh Shin-yeong as his eventual successor. In 1980, while working as ambassador to the Geneva Representation Bureau, Noh Shin-yeong was recalled and made Minister of Foreign Affairs. In 1982, he was installed as the Director of the Security Planning Bureau
National Intelligence Service
The National Intelligence Service is the name of several state security agencies:*National Intelligence Service *National Intelligence Service *National Intelligence Service *National Intelligence Service...

, and in 1985 he was named Prime Minister.

When this became widely known, those supporting Chun's regime were highly critical of his choice for successor. His supporters, mostly those with heavy military backgrounds, believed that the proper way to groom a successor was through military duties, not political positions. Chun was eventually persuaded reversed his position and ceased pushing for Noh Shin-yeong to succeed him.

On the Road to Democratization

The 1981 constitution restricted the president to a single seven-year term. While Chun did not attempt to amend the document so he could run again in 1987, he consistently resisted pleas for more democracy.

On 13 April 1987, Chun made a "Defense of the Constitution" speech. He declared that, in accordance with the current constitution, he would be handing power over to one of his military supporters in February 1988 based on an indirect election similar to the one that "elected" Chun seven years prior. This announcement enraged the democratization community and, in concert with several scandals from the Chun government that year, demonstrators began their movement again, starting with a speech at the Seoul Episcopal Angelic Cathedral. This eventually led to June Democracy Movement
June Democracy Movement
The June Democracy Movement was a nation-wide democracy movement in South Korea that generated mass protests from June 10 to June 29, 1987...


In order to gain control of a situation rapidly getting out of hand, Chun's government was forced to compromise, and on 29 June 1987 he declared Roh Tae-woo as the Democratic Justice Party's candidate in what would be the first direct presidential elections by the people of South Korea in thirty years. On 10 July 1987, Chun resigned as head of the Democratic Justice Party, remaining its Honorary Chairman but giving official political party control for the upcoming election to Roh.

1987 Presidential Election

Chun finished out his term, and in February 1988 Roh won the first direct election in 30 years after Kim Young-sam
Kim Young-sam
Kim Young-sam was a South Korean politician and democratic activist. From 1961, he spent 30 years as South Korea's leader of the opposition, and one of Park Chung-hee's most powerful rivals....

 and Kim Dae-jung split the popular vote.

Life after the Presidency

In February 1988, having stepped down from the presidency at the conclusion of his term, Chun was named Chairman of the National Statesman Committee, and through this position he wielded considerable influence in the nation's politics. Also that year, the Democratic Justice Party lost most of their seats in National Assembly elections to opposition parties, paving the way for the so-called "Fifth Republic Hearings". In these hearings the National Assembly explored the events of the Kwangju Democratization Movement and where responsibility should lay for the resulting massacre. On 11 November 1988, Chun apologized to the nation in a public address, pledging to give his money and belongings back to the country. Chun resigned from both the National Statesman Committee and the Democratic Justice Party.

At this time, Chun decided to live for several years in Baekdamsa, a Buddhist temple in the Gangwon-do province, in order to pay penance for his actions. On 30 December 1990, Chun left Baekdamsa and returned home.

Kim Young-sam

After Kim Young-sam
Kim Young-sam
Kim Young-sam was a South Korean politician and democratic activist. From 1961, he spent 30 years as South Korea's leader of the opposition, and one of Park Chung-hee's most powerful rivals....

's inauguration as President in 1993, Kim declared that between Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo
Roh Tae-woo
Roh Tae-woo , is a former ROK Army general and politician. He was the 13th president of South Korea .Roh befriended Chun Doo-hwan while in high school in Daegu. In his younger life, Roh was a keen rugby union player....

 there was 400,000,000,000 won worth of secretly ill-gotten money, and that he would conduct internal investigations to prove so.

Investigations into Chun and Roh

On 16 November 1995, the citizens’ cries were growing louder about the 12 December 1979 military coup and the bloody 5-18 Kwangju Democratization Movement incident, so Kim Young-sam announced the beginning of a movement to enact retroactive legislation, naming the bill Special Act on 5-18 Democratization Movement. As soon as the Constitutional Court declared Chun's actions as unconstitutional, the prosecutors began a reinvestigation. On 3 December 1995, Chun and 16 others were arrested on charges of conspiracy and insurrection. At the same time, an investigation into the corruption of their presidencies was begun.

In March 1996 their public trial began. On 26 August, the Seoul District Court issued a death sentence. On 16 December 1996, the Seoul High Court issued a sentence of life imprisonment and a fine in the amount of 220,500,000,000 won. On 17 April 1997, the judgement was finalized in the Supreme Court. Chun 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, Murder for the Purpose of Rebellion, as well as assorted crimes relating to bribery.

After his sentence was finalized, Chun began his life in prison. On 22 December 1997, Chun's sentence was commuted by President Kim Young-sam, on the advice of incoming President Kim Dae-jung. Chun was still required to pay his massive fine, but at that point he had only paid 53,200,000,000 won, not quite a fourth of the total fine amount. Chun made a relatively famous quote, saying, "I have only 250,000 won to my name." The remaining 167,300,000,000 won was never collected.

Revocation of Related Military Awards

According to the "May 18th Special Legislation," all medals awarded for the military intervention during the Kwangju Democratization Movement were revoked and ordered to be returned to the government. There are still 9 medals that have not been returned to the government.
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