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Ex-president claims to have inherited assets before presidency

Former President Chun Doo-hwan, who owes 220 billion won (US$196.8 million) to state coffers, had inherited massive personal assets before taking office in the 1980s, a close aide claimed Tuesday.

Chun was ordered by the nation's top court in 1997 to return the funds to the state coffers, which he was found to have illegally accumulated through bribery from big businesses during his military rule from 1980 to 1988.

"Political funds played no role in increasing Chun's assets, as he had inherited a lot of wealth before becoming the president," Min Jung-ki said.

Min previously served as Chun's chief of staff.

"There is no room for doubt that the political funds drifted into (Chun's personal assets,)" Min added.

The remarks are largely seen as a legal maneuver in an effort to differentiate Chun's illicit funds from his personal assets, according to legal experts.

Under the law, the hidden assets of Chun and his family members can only be turned over to the state if the prosecution can prove that they were purchased with the former president's illicit funds.

According to Min, Chun inherited most of his assets, such as his house and massive amount of land on the outskirts of Seoul, from his father-in-law in the 1960s and 70s.

As the prosecution has been zeroing in on Chun and his family to hunt for hidden assets, Chun has begun making various legal efforts.

On Monday, the prosecution office said that Chun has made a request to look into the records of a prosecution investigation into his bribe-taking in the 1990s.

The former military dictator has continually refused to pay the fine, saying that he is nearly penniless. He has some 167.2 billion won remaining unpaid.

There has been a public outcry about the delay in collecting the former president's unpaid fines, as the statute of limitations for Chun's case will expire in October.    

Under a revision, Chun is required to pay the remainder of his fines by October 2020. (Yonhap News)