Chun was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. He was currently in remission and his health had deteriorated, Min Chung-ki, his former press secretary, told reporters. His body will be taken to the hospital later in the day. He died in his Seoul home at the early hours of the morning.
Chun was a former military commander and presided over the 1980 Gwangju massacre of prodemocracy protesters. He was later convicted, and received a commuted sentence.
His death occurred just a month after Roh Tae-woo, a former President and his co-incident in the coup, had died at 88.
In the middle of the 1990s, Chun was an aloof and straight-laced man who defended the coup because it saved the nation from a crisis. He denied that troops were being sent to Gwangju.
Chun said to the court that he was certain that he would follow the same steps if the situation presented itself.
Chun was born in Yulgok-myeon on March 6, 1931. This is a poor farming community in the southeastern region of Hapcheon under Japanese rule.
Straight out of high school, he joined military service and worked his way through the ranks to become a commander in 1978. Chun was appointed commander in 1979 and took over the investigation into President Park Chung Hee’s assassination.
“Infront of the most powerful organisations under the Park Chunghee presidency, I was surprised at how easily (Chun), gained control over them. And how skillfully he took advantage. He seemed to have grown up in an instant,” Park Jun-kwang told Cho Gab-je, Chun’s subordinate during coup.
Chun was forced to resign from his office in the midst of a student-led democratic movement that demanded a direct electoral system.
After refusing to appear before the prosecutors and running to his hometown, he was arrested in 1995 for mutiny and treason.
He and his coup conspirator, as well as the succeeding President Roh Tse-Woo, were found guilty of mutiny and treason. Judges ruled that Chun rose to power “through illegal means that inflicted immense damage on the people.”
According to testimony from survivors, ex-military officers, and investigators, thousands of students were killed at Gwangju.
Chun was sent to death while Roh was served a long sentence in jail. This was however commuted by Seoul High Court to recognize Chun’s role as a catalyst for the rapid development of the Asian Tiger economic system and the peaceful transfer Roh’s presidency in 1988.
In 1997, President Kim Young-sam pardoned both men and released them from prison. This was in an effort to promote “national unity.”
Chun made many returns to the spotlight. In 2003, Chun caused a national scandal when he claimed assets totalling 291,000 won ($245) in cash, two dogs, and some appliances. He also owed 220.5 billion won in fines. His four children, and other relatives, were later discovered to have vast swathes land in Seoul and luxury villas in America.
In 2013, Chun’s family pledged to pay off the majority of his debt. However, his outstanding fines totaled around 100 billion won as December 2020.
In 2020, Chun was convicted and sentenced to an eight-month suspended sentence. He was convicted of defaming a Catholic priest and a late democracy activist in his 2017 memoirs. Prosecutors appealed, and Chun faced trial next week.