Perhaps it was seeing the prosecutors zeroing in on his predecessor Chun Doo-hwan’s hidden assets, with himself next in line.
Former President Roh Tae-woo, 81, made headlines Wednesday night by agreeing to pay up the unpaid 23 billion won ($20.5 million) in fines over the next several weeks.
He said the debt will be paid in two batches: 15 billion won within next week, and the remaining 8 billion won by the beginning of next month. This will settle his outstanding fines after 16 years of delay.
Roh, who served as president between 1988 and 1992, was sentenced to 17 years in prison and fined 262.8 billion won in 1997 on a number of charges including revolt and bribery. So far, he has paid 239.7 billion won over 97 different occasions. His imprisonment sentence, meanwhile, was pardoned during the subsequent Kim Young-sam administration.
It seems he finally managed a compromise with his family members after years of legal battles on who would be responsible for the remaining fine.
It was reported that the first batch of 15 billion will be paid by Roh’s brother Jae-woo, and the remaining amount by Roh’s former in-law Shin Myoung-soo, ex-chairman of the now-defunct Shindongbang Group.
Roh has been demanding that the two must return assets he gave them so that he could use them to pay up his debt.
Observers said the family may have felt pressured to seal the issue as public opinion worsened against former presidents’ unpaid debt, and as the prosecution expands their focus onto Roh’s possible slush fund links.
With Roh now “off the hook,” prosecutors will have their full attention on investigating Chun. Chun, who ruled from 1980 to 1988 through a military coup, was ordered by the Supreme Court in 1997 to pay a fine of 220 billion won for having accumulated assets illegally. He had refused to pay up, infamously saying he only had 290,000 won in his bank account. The prosecution has so far booked Lee Chang-seok, Chun’s brother-in-law, in relation to the investigation and is set to question Chun’s sons.
By Lee Joo-hee (email@example.com