Former President Chun Doo Hwan will apologize to the South Korean people for scandals and abuses of power associated with his eight years in office, an official of the ruling party announced Friday.
But the official, Yoon Giel Joong, chairman of the Democratic Justice Party, said Chun had not decided when and how to make the apology, and he dodged a question about whether Chun will return the illicit wealth he is said to have accumulated as president.
Chun “will take responsibility for everything that happened during the 5th Republic, directly explain events and make an apology to the people,” Yoon told reporters.
He said Chun “will take actions that the people will accept” after seeing the results of National Assembly investigations into 44 cases of alleged abuse of power and corruption and other charges.
The announcement came a day after thousands of students clashed with the police in demonstrations demanding the arrest and execution of Chun and his wife.
Yoon said the ruling party would oppose any move to call Chun before the National Assembly to testify in the investigations.
Political retaliation must be avoided, he said, and he noted that all three leaders of the opposition, which controls the National Assembly, had agreed to this in speeches to the National Assembly.
He disclosed that he had met with Kim Dae Jung, leader of the principal opposition party, and talked about how to deal with charges of irregularities under Chun, including an investigation into Chun’s bloody suppression of protests in Kwangju in 1980. He said he will meet soon with the other two leaders, Kim Young Sam and Kim Jong Pil.
President Roh Tae Woo has made it clear that he will pardon Chun if he is formally charged with any specific crimes. Chun’s younger brother, who headed a government-backed community development agency, has been convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison for embezzlement and influence-peddling, but no formal charges have been brought against Chun or his wife, Lee Soon Ja.
Yoon said the controversy over wrongdoing under Chun should be cleared up by the end of the year. He proposed that the 44 cases before the National Assembly be parceled out to several committees in order to speed up the process.
Chun’s decision to offer an apology, Yoon said, came after Yoon conveyed to him the ruling party’s position that “bold action” was needed to resolve the controversy. Opinion polls have shown that more than 90% of the people want either an apology and a promise to return illegally acquired wealth or else formal prosecution.