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Ex-president's grandson arrested over drug use as he enters Korea

Chun says punishing his family is difficult because they have power

March 28, 2023 - 07:52 By Lee Jung-youn
Chun Woo-won, former President Chun Doo-hwan’s grandson, enters the arrival gate of Incheon International Airport Terminal 2, wearing handcuffs, Tuesday. (Herald Business)

INCHEON -- Chun Woo-won, grandson of former President Chun Doo-hwan, arrived in Korea on Tuesday and was immediately arrested on suspicion of drug offences.

The 27-year-old, who lives in New York, arrived at Incheon Airport at around 6 a.m., Tuesday. The drug investigation team under Seoul Metropolitan Police arrested Chun and took him to Seoul for further investigation. He was wearing handcuffs as he appeared at the arrival gate.

Before the flight, Chun repeatedly expressed his will to visit Gwangju and apologize to the bereaved families and victims of the Gwangju Democratic Uprising.

“Thank you for giving me the opportunity to apologize. I will cooperate (with the police investigation) as much as possible and apologize to the bereaved families and victims of the Gwangju Uprising as soon as I am released,” said Chun.

Regarding the drug use charges, Chun said "I showed it all on the live stream to confront my sin. My records of drug use can be verified through hospitals in the United States."

South Korea claims jurisdiction over its citizens even outside of the country, so Koreans can be subject to prosecution even if they use drugs overseas.

When asked the reason why he decided to apologize to the bereaved families of the Gwangju Uprising, Chun said, "As much as my life is precious, all people’s lives matter. I am alive now, but (the victims) are not here, so I am guilty."

About his family's reaction, Chun said "Some people call me crazy, and some are genuinely worried."

At the airport, several people claiming to be Chun's fans shouted out to him: "Welcome to Korea."

Before he entered the police station in Mapo-gu, Seoul, Chun said: "I think it will be hard for my family and my acquaintances to be punished because they are socially influential and have capital power. But many people know their sins and I know them, too."

Police collected Chun's hair and urine samples and sent them to National Forensic Service for detailed drug testing. The investigation into Chun is expected to continue into the following day. Police also reportedly investigated the alleged drug offences of two people among those accused by Chun on an earlier occasion. The two individuals denied any drug use.

Chun had already spoken about his family's alleged illicit funds and wrongdoings through his Instagram starting on March 13, while still in New York.

Chun even called his grandfather a “slaughterer” and said that he wishes to apologize for his family's crimes. On March 17, Chun was taken to hospital after using drugs during a YouTube live broadcast.

The late former President Chun was a military dictator from 1980, and was responsible for the bloody suppression of the 1980 Gwangju Uprising which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people.

He was sentenced to pay 220.5 billion won ($169 million) in penalties for a bribery conviction, but left 95.6 billion won unpaid, claiming he did not have the money, despite living in luxury. He never acknowledged nor apologized for his acts of violence or for the massacre which took place during his regime. He died in late 2021.