Chun Doo-hwan: Former South Korean military dictator dies at age 90

Former South Korean military dictator Chun Doo-hwan, who took power in a coup in 1979, has died at the age of 90.

Ruling the country with an iron fist between 1980 and 1988, his reign was marked by the widespread use of torture against dissidents and the suppression of free speech.

He suppressed pro-democracy protests during his time as an unelected military ruler and was known as the ‘Butcher of Gwangju’ because he ordered a crackdown on the southwestern city in 1980.

The official death toll from the violence in Gwangju is 200, but some organizations say the number may be three times that.

Born in 1931, Chun Doo-hwan entered the Military Officer Training Academy at the height of the Korean War.

He rose through the ranks under the leadership of his military patron, Park Chung-hee, who took power in a coup in 1961.

When Park Chung-hee was assassinated in 1979, Chun Doo-hwan took over the murder investigation before launching his own military coup two months later, taking control of South Korea.

During a visit to Burma in 1983, North Korean agents attempted to kill him by detonating a bomb during a party in memory of Aung San, the slain Burmese independence hero and Aung San Suu Kyi’s father.

His military regime oversaw the strong economic growth of South Korea and made Seoul the host of the 1988 Olympics.

In 1987, mass demonstrations against his regime forced him to accept the return of democracy.

He resigned the following year after his old ally Roh Tae-woo won the election.

After opposition leader Kim Young-sam was elected president in 1993, Chun Doo-hwan was accused of treason and corruption.

He was sentenced to death, but was later reduced by the Supreme Court, and he was pardoned in 1997.

Chun never apologized for Gwangju’s crackdown.

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