Justice shouldn’t be delayedFormer President Chun Doo Hwan’s family has finally decided to pay the unpaid 167.2 billion won ($154 million) criminal fine for his misdeeds in office in the 1980s. The family decision wraps up a highly delayed process 16 years since the Supreme Court’s verdict in 1997. We cannot help but smile bitterly at the Chun family’s decision.
President Chun’s eldest son Jae-kook issued an apology to the public in the lobby of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office yesterday.
“In regard to the unpaid fine, I apologize to people on behalf of my family for causing concerns. Although my father urged me to cooperate with the prosecution’s efforts over the unpaid fine and we tried to follow my father’s order, we had to drag our feet due to a lack of diligence and some very real obstacles,” he said.
Jae-kook also released a list of assets to be surrendered to the government, including the house in Yeonhui-dong, Seoul, owned by former first lady Lee Soon-ja. The prosecution plans to settle the case by taking into account Chun’s voluntary payment of the fines.
What we take special note of is the manner in which Chun and his family responded to the highest court’s ruling before deciding to pay the balance of the fine. Since the Supreme Court in 1997 ordered him to pay 220.5 billion won in fines - and also sentenced him to life in prison, which was later commuted - Chun only paid 53.3 billion won. He even claimed he had only 290,000 won to his name when the court demanded he present a list of his properties.
But Chun and his relatives changed their tunes rather quickly after the National Assembly passed a special law to go after his hidden wealth and the prosecution intensified its investigation into his hidden assets. At last, Chun succumbed to mounting pressure from the prosecution, as seen in the arrest of his brother-in-law Lee Chang-seok for allegedly illegally transferring a huge plot of land to Chun’s second son. Such unconscionable behavior doesn’t behoove a former president.
Chun will now pay his fine, and that is what the prosecution wanted. Despite Prosecutor General Chae Dong-wook’s persistent demand for a thorough investigation, prosecutors have not dealt with the case very aggressively in the past, as seen by their reluctance to tackle it even after Chun’s second son was found to have hidden secret wealth in court trials in 2004. As the saying goes, justice delayed is justice denied.
Chun’s tragic saga won’t end with a two-minute apology. People will be watching to see if he and his family are truly brought to justice.