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Ex-president Chun returns nullified, self-awarded medals

In the midst of a prosecution probe into his huge slush funds last month, disgraced former President Chun Doo-hwan returned medals he awarded himself during his term but were later canceled, the home affairs ministry said Monday.

In August, Chun turned in the nine medals that he gave himself while in office in the 1980s at the Ministry of Security and Public Administration, some seven years after the government canceled them as part of efforts to correct distorted history.

The former military dictator gave himself the country's major medals of high honor, including the Order of Taegeuk Military Merit reserved for patriots who sacrificed their lives for the country, after he seized power in a coup in 1979 and during his presidency in 1980-88.

"We had tried to retrieve the medals since 2006, but he had refused to give them back. Several days before the prosecution launched a full-fledged investigation into his secret funds case, he voluntarily returned them," a ministry official said.

The prosecution office last month launched a probe team tasked with reclaiming unpaid fines amounting to 167.2 billion won (US$155.3 million) from Chun.

Chun was ordered by the country's top court in 1997 to return to state coffers some 220 billion won he illegally accumulated through bribery from big businesses, but he has paid only a quarter of the total.

Amid the extensive government-wide efforts to collect the unpaid money, his son announced earlier this month his family's plan to pay the fines in the form of real estate, movables and financial assets, with their combined value exceeding the unpaid amount.

"The returned medals were already canceled, so they don't have any significance or value. Considering that they deserve being kept, however, we've decided to keep them at the National Archives," the official said.

Chun's successor Roh Tae-woo, however, has yet to return his 11 medals, also self-awarded and later canceled, with the government vowing continued efforts to retrieve them.

Roh was also convicted of the same charges as Chun in 1997 and was ordered by the top court to pay back 262.8 billion won that he was found to have illegally accumulated during his presidency.

Earlier this month, he paid off the remainder of his unpaid fines amounting to 23 billion won. (Yonhap news)