SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A son of ex-dictator Chun Doo-hwan said Tuesday his family will pay back the money his father amassed for a huge slush fund during his corrupt 1980s rule in South Korea.
Chun, a former army general, seized power in a 1979 coup and ruled the country with an iron-fist until early 1988. He was arrested in 1995 and received a death sentence after being convicted of corruption, mutiny and treason, though he was pardoned in 1997 in a bid for national reconciliation.
Chun was ordered to pay back 220.5 billion won ($203 million) that he had collected from businessmen, but returned only a portion, arguing he's broke, and still owes about 167 billion won.
His eldest son Chun Jae-kook said Tuesday that his family members will hand over real estate, paintings and other assets to the government to pay back the remaining money.
"I lower my head and offer an apology to the people on behalf of my family" over the money, the son said in a televised news conference before entering a Seoul prosecution office to explain the plans.
He said his father told his family members to cooperate with prosecutors' moves to get back the money. The son said a Seoul house where his father and mother live would be handed over, but he hopes his parents could spend their rest of their lives there.
Among the criticism Chun, 82, faces is his tough military crackdown on a pro-democracy uprising in the southern city of Gwangju in 1980. Government figures show that about 200 people were killed but activists say far more civilians died.
The son's announcement came after prosecutors summoned some family members and confiscated their assets earlier this year in a renewed push for the money.
Reports in South Korean media speculate the push is a reflection of President Park Geun-hye's icy relations with Chun. They note that Park's father, former President Park Chung-hee who ruled South Korea for 18 years until his 1979 assassination, was believed to be behind Chun's rise in the military, but Chun tried to disparage Park's policies after he took power.
Park's office denied the speculation, saying the prosecutors' moves were part of government efforts to resolve abnormal practices and foul play linked to past periods of rule.