Ex-South Korean Presidents Convicted

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SEOUL, South Korea: A three-judge panel sentenced former South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan to death for mutiny and murder and sentenced his successor, Roh Tae-woo, to 22 1/2 years for participation in mutiny. The landmark decision puts a cap on an era of corruption and oligarchical politics that had gripped the country throughout the 1980's. The two convicted men were boyhood friends who rose through the military and as generals staged a coup in 1979, placing Chun into the presidency. Six months later, Chun ordered a brutal crackdown of pro-democracy uprisings in the Kwang-ju province. The police action left some 200 dead, and Kwang-ju became a rallying cry for Korean dissidents. Roh succeeded Chun in 1988 and ruled until the current civilian president, Kim Young-sam, won power in 1992. It was Kim who began the reforms that led to the trial and conviction of the two former presidents. Roh's attorneys are expected to appeal his sentence, and an appeal of Chun's death sentence is automatic. TIME's Stella Kim reports from Seoul that there is widespread speculation that President Kim may offer both men some form of clemency after the appeals process plays out, probably in mid-1997. President Kim must weigh the effect on public opinion of clemency or pardon, TIME's Kim notes, because his party faces national elections next December. "One legal scholar said that if President Kim abused his right to grant clemency, then the moral lesson taught by this trial would be useless." But there are many who feel some sympathy for the men. Given that division, clemency may be part of the healing process. Scot Woods