Published : 2013-09-06 21:09
Updated : 2013-09-06 21:09
Former President Chun Doo-hwan reportedly offered on Wednesday to pay his outstanding fines. If he did, he undoubtedly did so to prevent his children from being sent to prison.
Chun, who took power in a coup as an Army general in 1980, collected huge sums of money in bribes from businesses. He was ordered by a court in 1997 to pay 220.5 billion won ($201 million) in fines. He has since paid less than a third of that.
It is not known whether he offered to pay the remaining fines, which amount to 167.2 billion won, in part or in full. His alleged offer followed the prosecution’s questioning on Wednesday of Chun’s second son, Jae-yong, who was suspected of evading taxes on his land deals.
It is a matter of time until the prosecution summons Chun’s first and third sons as well to question them in its criminal investigations. It has already conducted search and seizure on their homes, corporations under their management and those of their relatives.
Chun’s offer to pay came on the day when his immediate successor, Roh Tae-woo, who was sentenced by a court in 1997 to pay 262.8 billion won in fines, paid up his remaining fines of 23 billion won. Roh had assisted Chun in his coup as his Korea Military Academy classmate.
Chun’s offer, however, may have come too late. He could have managed damage if it came in 2004 when the court decided that 7.3 billion won Jae-yong had in bonds had come from his father’s hidden assets. Civic organizations are already asking what the prosecution did under the previous administrations, referring to the prosecution’s failure to follow up on the court’s decision.
It should not come as a surprise if the public puts pressure on the prosecution to strictly administer justice on Chun’s children and relatives accused of dodging taxes, hiding assets in overseas tax havens or taking other illegal actions. Well aware of this public sentiment, the prosecution holds that it would be inappropriate to make a deal with Chun on his offer to pay. Moreover, plea bargaining is not institutionalized in Korea’s criminal code.
This is not to say the prosecution has little room for maneuvering. As an agency monopolizing the authority to bring criminal cases to the court, it may demand lesser punishment than Chun’s children are deemed to deserve if Chun promises to pay up. Or, it may drop some of the charges it has been preparing to bring against them.
The best that Chun can do against this backdrop is pay up now and ask for leniency toward his children later.