Korean presidents face charges

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The Independent Online
Seoul (Reuter) - Two former South Korean presidents, Chun Doo Hwan and Roh Tae Woo, were formally charged yesterday for their roles in a bloody 1979 coup. They face the death penalty if convicted.

Mr Chun, who was moved to a police hospital on Wednesday, having been on hunger strike since his arrest on 3 December, was charged with mutiny for masterminding the coup, which was followed in May 1980 by an army massacre of pro-democracy rebels in the city of Kwangju. Mr Roh was charged with playing a "key role" by pulling troops under his command off the North Korean border to back the putsch leaders.

Both were also charged with murder and attempted murder for attacks on superior officers, and with ordering military units to be mobilised without proper authorisation.

Political analysts believe the disgraced former presidents will receive long prison sentences, likely to be commuted.

The Yonhap news agency said Mr Chun would also be indicted for corruption around 29 January. Mr Roh's trial on separate charges of accepting $369m (pounds 240m) in bribes started on Monday. He admitted taking money from businessmen during his 1988-93 term, but said he could not remember from whom or when.

President Kim Young Sam has vowed to "put history to rights", and this week parliament passed a special law to open the way to legal action against his predecessors.