The ruling Democratic Party of Korea on Friday lashed out at former President Chun Doo-hwan, who is now on trial on libel charges in connection with his role in the 1980 crackdown on the Gwangju Democratic Uprising, for hosting an extravagant luncheon on the anniversary of the military coup that brought him to power.
The former Army general, 88, seized power in a military coup on Dec. 12, 1979, following the assassination of President Park Chung-hee on Oct. 26 by his spy agency director. Chun served as president from 1980 to 1988.
Chun had lunch with those involved in the military coup on Thursday at a restaurant in a Gangnam, southern Seoul, according to a photo taken and made public by Justice Party vice chief Lim Han-sol.
“The leader of the military coup hosted a wine festival without feeling ashamed,” Rep. Sul Hoon of the Democratic Party of Korea said at a meeting with party leaders, denouncing Chun’s behavior.
“If he is in that condition (to host a wine party), he should be able to attend trial,” he said. “He should stop insulting the public and the court and attend the trial.”
Chun stands accused of defaming the late activist priest Cho Chul-hyun.
Cho said he witnessed the military shooting at civilians from helicopters during the bloody crackdown in Gwangju in May 1980, which Chun flatly denied. Cho’s nephew filed a complaint against Chun as the ex-president referred to the deceased as “Satan wearing a mask” and a “liar” in his memoir published in early 2017.
However, Chun has refused to attend court proceedings, citing frail health.
Rep. Lee Hyung-suk of the ruling party also called for Chun’s detention at the party leaders’ meeting, calling him a “historical criminal.” He said it is unfair and unjust that he gets to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the military coup.
Chun was sentenced to death for sedition and bribery in 1996, but his sentence was later cut to life imprisonment. He was released in 1997 on a presidential pardon.