The Korea Herald


Civic group calls for probe on Chun's family

Bereaved relatives of Gwangju Uprising victims say they would accept young Chun’s apology

By Lee Jung-youn

Published : March 29, 2023 - 15:56

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Chun Woo-won, the late former President Chun Doo-hwan's grandson, enters the arrival gate of the Incheon Airport Terminal 2, Tuesday morning. (Yonhap) Chun Woo-won, the late former President Chun Doo-hwan's grandson, enters the arrival gate of the Incheon Airport Terminal 2, Tuesday morning. (Yonhap)

A civic group on Wednesday staged a rally in front of a police station in Seoul where Chun Woo-won -- the grandson of former President Chun Doo-hwan -- is being investigated for drug crimes, calling for a greater focus on the junior Chun's other claims.

The National Action to Judge Chun Doo-hwan said that rather than the junior Chun's drug crimes, investigators should prioritize his apology and reflection on the massacre that happened during the Gwangju Democratic Uprising in May 1980, and the disclosure of the Chun family’s illicit funds and property.

Chun Woo-won was arrested on charges of drug use on Tuesday, right after he landed in Korea from an airplane that departed from New York.

Over the last two weeks, Chun made allegations on social media of illicit funds, corruption, sex and drug offenses involving his family and acquaintances, and confessed to using drugs and prostitutes himself.

On March 17, Chun was taken to a hospital after using drugs during a live YouTube broadcast. As South Korea claims jurisdiction over its citizens even outside the country, Koreans can be subject to prosecution even for drug offenses overseas.

As of 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Chun was still under investigation, but was expected to be released in the late afternoon. Police have reportedly decided to return Chun home considering that he voluntarily reentered Korea and turned himself in.

Chun Woo-won has repeatedly expressed his desire to apologize for the massacre and acts of violence that happened during his grandfather’s regime. The elder Chun was a military dictator who held the country in his grasp from 1980 to 1988.

Chun Woo-won reached out to the May 18 Foundation, the representative organization related to the Gwangju Uprising, before flying to Korea, and the foundation has stated that it intends to help him visit places related to historical tragedy.

“If (Chun) comes, we plan to provide an opportunity where he can meet the bereaved families and victims and apologize,” Lee Ki-bong, the chairman of the May 18 foundation, told The Korea Herald.

"We will accompany Chun to visit the May 18 National Cemetery and help him pay his respects to the victims, if he wishes to do so. The bereaved families say they are willing to meet him if he comes to apologize," Lee added.

The May 18 Memorial Injured group plans to send some of its members to guide Chun immediately after his release to accompany him to Gwangju and prevent any possible obstruction from supporters of the former dictator. However, the plan could change according to Chun's well-being and the time of his release.

If Chun apologizes to the bereaved families and victims of the Gwangju Uprising after being released, he would be the first in the family to officially admit to the reality of the massacre and violence that took place under the elder Chun’s orders.