December 21, 1995
Web posted at: 9:30 a.m. EST (1430 GMT)
From Reporter Patricia Chew
SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) -- Former presidents Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-Woo were formally indicted Thursday on charges of masterminding the coup d'etat that brought them to power in 1979.
South Korea's senior prosecutor announced that the charge against Chun is military insurrection -- an offense that carries a mandatory death penalty, although it is unlikely to be imposed.
Even as the indictment was filed, Chun lay in Seoul's National Police Hospital, weak and emaciated from an 18-day hunger strike. The head of the hospital said Chun has refused intravenous feeding. Chun's son said his father could hardly even drink water.
The disgraced president began a hunger strike after his December 3 arrest, which he called pure political retaliation.
Prosecutors said Chun will soon be charged with treason as well, for orchestrating a bloody crackdown on demonstrators in the southwestern city of Kwangju in 1980.
Roh, Chun's successor, already is on trial for corruption. Thursday's charges of mutiny mean he could also face the death penalty. He was indicted for abetting Chun.
Other generals also are expected to be charged; five were questioned Thursday. Roh's daughter was brought in for questioning, in connection with the hundreds of millions of dollars that her father is accused of amassing while in office.
Chun and Roh are the first former South Korean presidents to face charges for wrongdoing in office. The retired four-star generals were childhood friends who graduated from the same military academy and remained buddies throughout their military careers.
Thursday's indictments followed the passage Tuesday of special legislation that waives the customary 15-year statute of limitations. The law says that the two presidents' terms in office should not be included in the 15-year period.
One of the military rulers' first moves after the 1979 coup was to place the then-dissident Kim Young Sam under house arrest. Kim is now the country's president. This week he reorganized his Cabinet
President Kim addressed his new cabinet for the first time Thursday, saying this was a chance to break from the past.
Kim said he intends to rectify what he calls the shame and disgrace of South Korea's decades of military rule.
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