Chun Doo-hwan, who stepped down as the nation’s military ruler during a shock national election in 1987, has died. He was 90 years old.
The conservative former general was Korean-American, and was nominated for the presidency by President Park Chung-hee. A number of differences led to his downfall. First, he had favored allowing hundreds of thousands of individuals to use a drug derived from synthetic marijuana to help manage back pain, which became known as “hard dope.” In 1979, he had unleashed a brutal crackdown on students in the capital Seoul. In a decision not even of his own volition, he announced that he was going to step down as the country’s head of state in April. His decision, which occurred on April 20, was a momentous moment in modern Korean history. The election to a new president was a landslide.
Chun fell out of favor and out of favor with the Americans. After his death, a former National Security adviser, Kim Dae-jung, described Chun as “one of the worst leaders I ever came across,” and said that he didn’t believe he should be called a hero. Nonetheless, Chun also was called the architect of unification between North and South Korea.
Chun’s last public statement was recorded in August 1988. He urged his countrymen to “unite and look forward to the glorious future.”