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President’s Brother Questioned About Embezzlement

March 29, 1988

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) _ The brother of former President Chun Doo-hwan was questioned by prosecutors today about the theft of millions of dollars, and one of his associates attempted to kill himself while being interrogated.

Chun Kyung-hwan was summoned by prosecutors to answer charges he used his position as head of the semi-official Saemaul development movement to amass a forture in cash, land and stocks.

″I am sorry to the people,″ the grim looking Chun said as he arrived at the Prosecutor General’s office in central Seoul. A man rushed out of the crowd, slapped Chun’s face and yelled, ″You rascal,″ before fleeing.

A top Saemaul official, Hwang Hung-sik, tried to leap from a fifth-floor window of a hospital where he was taken after he slammed his head against a wall and bit his tongue during questioning, officials said. He was overpowered before he could jump.

Officials said Hwang, who was in fair condition, wrote a suicide note before trying to jump, saying: ″Please find a way for me to end my life peacefully after apologizing to all the people.″

Hwang is alleged to have kept secret ledgers detailing the embezzlement of at least $14 million.

Prosecutors say they have evidence Chun Kyung-hwan and other top officials embezzled government and private subsidies, peddled influence and fixed illegal business deals. Prosecutors say Chun embezzled at least $9.3 million in cash.

The state-run Korean Broadcasting System and leading Seoul newspapers reported the younger Chun and other officials would be charged with corruption.

About 200 officials have been questioned in the growing scandal. Scores of government officials are suspected of aiding corruption or covering it up to protect the former president and his wife.

Opposition parties demanded today that former President Chun cut short a trip to the United States and return home immediately to explain his role in the Saemaul scandal. The opposition charged the former president must have been involved in the affair.

″We urge former President Chun Doo-hwan to ... testify before prosecutors whether he had exercised his influence in connection with his brother’s alleged Saemaul irregularties,″ the opposition Party for Peace and Democracy said.

Opposition leaders contend the Saemaul affair was just part of massive corruption under the Chun presidency. The opposition wants other Chun relatives, including former first lady Lee Soon-ja, questioned about corruption allegations.

Widespread government corruption was long suspected under the authoritarian Chun regime. But criticism of the president and his family were not tolerated and the allegations were ignored.

The former president, who has not been implicated in the Saemaul affair, has indicated he will cut short his American trip. Chun, who stepped down Feb. 25 to allow President Roh Tae-woo to take office, met with President Reagan at the White House last week.

Prosecutors say the younger Chun, who was appointed by his brother, used his position as Saemaul leader to divert government and private donations, sell influence and pressured businesses to make gifts of money, land and stocks.

Saemaul, founded in 1971 to promote urban and rural development, evolved into a huge nationwide organization involved in activities ranging from building model communities to urban clean-up campaigns.

The younger Chun resigned as Saemaul chief in 1987 after being linked to underworld gangsters.

Roh is thought to have approved the Saemaul probe to discredit the former president and end his attempts to retain power and influence within the government.

Some Chun loyalists were purged from the governing Democratic Justice Party earlier this month and Roh blocked the former president’s attempts to retain substantial power as a government adviser.

Roh, a former general who helped put Chun in power with military backing in 1980, promised during the presidential election campaign to root out and end official corruption.

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