Chun Doo Hwan uses an Alzheimer’s excuseA local court on Monday rejected former President Chun Doo Hwan’s claims that Alzheimer’s disease makes him unable to appear in court for a trial on charges of defaming a late Catholic priest over a military crackdown on a 1980 pro-democracy revolt in Gwangju.
An aide to Chun issued a statement a day earlier that the former strongman has been diagnosed with the memory loss disease and therefore cannot attend the trial’s first hearing set for Monday afternoon in the southwestern city.
Related medical records have been submitted to the court, the statement said.
However, an official at the Gwangju District Court rejected the claims, saying Alzheimer’s disease cannot constitute a legitimate reason for non-attendance.
The court has the right to use force to bring a defendant into court in case they refuse to comply with a summons without legitimate reasons.
Chun was indicted in May on charges of libeling activist priest Cho Chul-hyun, who said he witnessed the military firing at citizens from helicopters during the bloody suppression of the protests against Chun’s junta.
Chun denied the claim in memoirs published in 2017. He called Cho “Satan wearing a mask” and claimed what he said was a flat-out lie. Prosecutors began an investigation after a relative of Cho filed a complaint.
If convicted, Chun could face up to two years in prison or a maximum 5 million won ($4,550) in fines.
The hearing was delayed twice in May and July at Chun’s request. He did not request a deferment this time.
The former Army general seized power in a 1979 coup and ruled the country until early 1988. He received a death sentence in 1996 for treason and bribery. His sentence was reduced to life imprisonment by the highest court, and he was released in December 1997 on a presidential pardon.