Share this story
Close X
Switch to Desktop Site

General Chun, in final act of Korean power play, assumes presidency

Newly appointed South Korean President Chun Doo Hwan now faces the difficult tasks of trying to restore stability to the country and of reassuring an agitated United States.

The military strong man was officially appointed head of state by a rubber-stamp electoral college Aug. 27. His appointment appears to ensure the Army will play a more open role in running the country.

About these ads

Gen. Chun immediately made it clear that he would not tolerate dissent. In a terse official statement, he called for unity and the elimination of "elements impeding the nation's interest and progress."

The statement gave no indication of when martial law might be lifted nor when the present tough constitution would be revised.

Although Chun is expected to pick a nonmilitary Cabinet, the real power will probably be wielded by the general and Army colleagues in charge of security.

The new Cabinet is expected to be announced after General Chun's inauguration Sept. 1. Acting President Park Choong Hoon will act as Prime minister until the Cabinet is chosen.

His appointment to the country's top post was regarded as a mere formality after President Choi Kyu-hah resigned earlier this month. The son of a poor farmer, General Chun rose to prominence as the leader of a military group investigating the killing of his mentor, President Park Chung Hee.

Since then, he has become the power behind the presidential throne. The tough-looking Chun resigned from the Army as a four-star general Aug. 22 in what was seen as one of the final acts in his power play.

Gen. Chun envisages building a welfare state to divide more equally among the country's 37 million peopl the fruits of the nation's economic success.

About these ads

In recent weeks General Chun has stepped-up a nationwide "purification" campaign aimed at stamping out corruption.

Meanwhile, two university students Aug. 27 denied charges that they helped organize violent demonstrations to topple the government before full martial law was imposed May 17.

The students are accused with opposition leader Kim Dae Jung of plotting to commit sedition through popular rioting. Mr. Kim, a former presidential candidate who faces a possible death penalty, has denied the charges.

"One era has disappeared in history and we are now breathing a new one . . ., " said acting President Park before the Aug. 27 electoral vote. "We have to overcome great ordeals and challenges to achieve a national goal of building a democratic welfare state."

Follow Stories Like This
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.