Family of South Korean ex-leader promises $156 million for fines

SEOUL Tue Sep 10, 2013 5:18am EDT

Singapore's Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong (2nd L) talks with Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso (L) as South Korea's former President Chun Doo-hwan (bottom) arrives before the inauguration of South Korea's President Park Geun-hye at parliament in Seoul February 25, 2013. REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won

Singapore's Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong (2nd L) talks with Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso (L) as South Korea's former President Chun Doo-hwan (bottom) arrives before the inauguration of South Korea's President Park Geun-hye at parliament in Seoul February 25, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Lee Jae-Won

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SEOUL (Reuters) - The family of former South Korean President Chun Doo Hwan on Tuesday pledged more than 170 billion won ($156.4 million) for fines he owes from corruption convictions, bowing to pressure from a public prosecutor armed with a tougher anti-graft law.

The new law followed growing public anger over a climate of impunity for the powerful that was seen as enabling political and business leaders convicted of corruption to get off lightly.

Chun was a general who seized power in a 1979 coup. He is one of South Korea's most hated ex-leaders for ordering the suppression of a democracy uprising in the city of Gwangju in 1980 in which at least 250 people were killed.

Chun was sentenced to death in 1996 for treason and mutiny, but was pardoned in 1997. He was also ordered to pay fines worth 220.5 billion won.

Most of the funds promised on Tuesday will come from the assets of Chun's four children, suspected of receiving money from their father who was convicted of amassing hundreds of millions of dollars from business kick-backs while in office.

The four children have been under investigation under the law enacted this year that expanded the statute of limitations on corruption cases involving public servants and made their families liable for stolen assets.

"I bow my head in apology on behalf of the family for having caused concerns regards to the issue of penalty payment," Chun Jae-guk, who is the eldest son of the former leader, said on the steps of the Seoul prosecutor's office.

"The family will cooperate as much as possible so that the authorities' actions to collect penalty payment can be completed smoothly and we will also respond conscientiously to any investigations," he said.

Chun lives in retirement in a big house in Seoul. His children offered to give up the house to help pay for the fines but said their parents wish to stay there for the rest of their lives.

($1 = 1086.8 won)

(Reporting by Jack Kim; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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