Lawmakers Jeer Former President During Testimony On Corruption
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) _ Former President Chun Doo-hwan on Sunday cut short his testimony about corruption and abuses during his rule after angry lawmakers shouted, jeered and shoved each other in several free-for-alls.
One opposition lawmaker raced to the podium where the disgraced former leader was addressing Parliament and shouted, ″Murderer 3/8″ Another hurled a wooden nameplate at government lawmakers. One melee forced a four-hour adjournment.
″I felt heartbroken that I could not finish my testimony, but I will tell my account of the truth in other ways,″ Chun told reporters before departing.
He returned to the Buddhist temple where he has lived in self-imposed exile since leaving office in 1988 after a seven-year term marred by charges of corruption, human rights abuses and misconduct.
Aides said he would not come back to testify.
During the hearings broadcast on nationwide radio and television, Chun refused to make an outright apology, as opposition parties have demanded, but said he would take ″moral responsibility″ for wrongdoings under his rule.
He has denied any personal corruption, but 48 of his relatives and associates have been convicted of embezzlement and other crimes.
″I didn’t do anything wrong,″ Chun said.
″It’s a lie 3/8 It’s a lie 3/8″ one opposition lawmaker shouted as Chun denied almost all charges of corruption, power abuse and misdeeds.
Chun’s testimony before about 200 lawmakers and spectators was aimed at bringing calm to South Korean politics, which have been dogged by public demands to reveal the truth behind allegations against his government.
President Roh Tae-woo, Chun’s successor and former associate, appealed to South Koreans in a New Year’s message Sunday ″to put an end to past affairs once the past president apologizes for wrongdoings.″
Kim Dae-jung, a two-time presidential candidate and opposition party leader who was sentenced to death under Chun’s rule for alleged sedition, was among the spectators at Parliament.
The testimony, which lasted more than 12 hours, was interrupted repeatedly by shouting matches that forced adjournments and a virtual free-for-all involving about two dozen legislators.
A melee erupted after opposition legislators angrily accused Chun of lying about his involvement in the crushing of a 1980 civil uprising in the city of Kwangju. About 200 people died and 1,500 were wounded in the uprising, which was suppressed by the military. Chun was a top military general at the time and became president the same year with military backing.
Opposition and government party lawmakers shouted, jeered and shoved each other in a melee that adjourned the session for almost four hours.
Although no one was hurt when an opposition lawmaker hurled the nameplate, aides hurriedly led Chun away and government party lawmakers later refused to attend the hearings when they were rescheduled.
Chun was criticized by the public and politicians for what they called insincere testimony. Many accused him of perjury.
″Mr. Chun showed no sign of repentance. His arrogant attitude would incur the wrath of the people,″ said spokesman Kim Tae-shik of the largest opposition Party for Peace and Democracy.
The No. 2 opposition group, the Reunification Democratic Party, denounced the ex-president as a ″man dreaming in a fantasy land.″
Newspapers and television stations were flooded with thousands of telephone calls protesting Chun’s attitude.
Some opposition leaders charge the Kwangju uprising was a scheme by Chun and his associates to seize power.
Chun, reading from a prepared statement, denied he played any role in the military suppression of the uprising. He said, however, troops on the scene had a standing order to open fire if a war situation occurred.
″Mr. Chun’s testimony was nothing but an insult and blackmail to the people,″ said a statement from Chonminryon, the largest dissident organization. ″His testimony was full of distorted explanations that will incur public anger.″
Thousands of riot police were deployed around Parliament to prevent attacks by radicals and students who have staged violent demonstrations demanding that Chun be arrested and punished, but there were no clashes.
Chun was forced to agree to democratic president elections in 1987 after months of anti-government protests. His hand-picked successor, Roh, was elected Dec. 17, 1987 in South Korea’s first direct presidential election in 16 years.