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Widow of late authoritarian leader Chun Doo-hwan to continue husband’s trial

Lee Soon-ja to take up civil case against Chun as inheritor of late husband’s assets, but excused from an unpaid W95.6b forfeiture

South Korea’s late authoritarian leader Chun Doo-hwan (left) and his spouse Lee Soon-ja (Yonhap)
South Korea’s late authoritarian leader Chun Doo-hwan (left) and his spouse Lee Soon-ja (Yonhap)

Lee Soon-ja, the widow of South Korea’s late authoritarian leader Chun Doo-hwan, will take on legal proceedings involving a civil case against Chun, as she decided to inherit her late husband’s assets.

Lee, however, will not be entitled to pay the penalty that Chun failed to pay during his life, which amounts to 95.6 billion won ($78.6 million), or 43 percent of the 220.5 billion won that the court ordered him to forfeit.

Under the current law in South Korea, forfeiture cannot be inherited, unlike debt.

In 1996, Chun was convicted of treason, murder and bribe-taking. He was originally sentenced to death, but the Supreme Court later commuted the sentence to life in prison and a forfeiture of over 220 billion won.

However, Chun failed to pay the penalty, claiming that his entire wealth consisted of 290,000 won -- an infamous remark that was widely criticized before his death.

Despite being excused from the forfeiture, Lee will now have to take on legal proceedings of a civil case against Chun by the law. The final trial will be held on May 25.

Chun was previously sued by the families of victims after allegedly defaming a late priest, Cho Pius, who argued that he witnessed Chun’s troops shooting from helicopters during a pro-democracy demonstration in Gwangju, which took place on May 18, 1980.

Chun called the priest a “shameless liar” in his controversial memoir published in 2017.

However, with Chun’s death last year, a libel trial against him came to an end. The civil case also remained unsettled and was postponed until Chun’s family made a decision on whether they would inherit Chun’s assets, along with the court proceedings.

The Gwangju District Court earlier ruled in the first trial that Chun must pay a 70 million won fine for defaming the victims and families of the massacre in the southwestern city of Gwangju.

But both the plaintiff and defendant appealed to a higher court for a different verdict.

By Shim Woo-hyun (
Korea Herald daum