Chun family vows to pay all remaining fines

SEOUL, Sept. 10 (Yonhap) -- The family of disgraced former President Chun Doo-hwan pledged Tuesday to pay off a huge amount of unpaid fines, making a public apology for "causing public concern."

In 1997, the nation's top court convicted the former president of mutiny, treason and bribery and ordered him to return to state coffers around 220 billion won (US$202.15 million) he illegally received in bribes during his iron-fisted rule. Chun has yet to pay some 167.2 billion won he owes. Chun seized power through a coup in 1979 and ruled until 1988.

"I apologize on behalf of our family for causing trouble concerning the payment of fines to the people," Chun's eldest son Jae-kook said at a press conference at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office in southern Seoul.

"I'm sorry for being late in resolving the issue due to my inadequacy and realistic problems even though my father told me to cooperate with the authorities as much as I can."

He then announced the family's plan to voluntarily return to the state 170.3 billion won worth of real estate, movables and financial assets, an amount exceeding the unpaid money.

The assets the prosecution will return to the state include art pieces and land that has so far been seized by the prosecution, the 53-year-old son said. The combined worth of the seized assets is 90 billion won, according to prosecutors.

"All of our family members will make our utmost efforts to cooperate with the authorities so the collection process can go smoothly until we finish paying back all the money," he said.

After the news conference, the younger Chun directly went into the prosecution building to submit a detailed plan of how to pay back the money, without answering to questions from reporters.

The prosecution said it will collect the money after objectively evaluating the exact value of the assets the family pledged to return. But if the value is not high enough, prosecutors will again try to seize other hidden assets.

The announcement comes as prosecutors stepped up its search of properties associated with the former military dictator as part of efforts to collect the unpaid money.

In a related development, prosecutors have recently arrested Lee Chang-seok, a brother-in-law of the ex-president, on tax evasion charges. They also questioned the former president's second son, Jae-yong, over his possible involvement in Lee's case.

Lee, the younger brother of former first lady Lee Soon-ja, was indicted last week on charges of evading transfer income taxes worth 6 billion won in the process of selling 28 lots of land that he owned in Osan, just south of Seoul, to a real estate developer in 2006. He falsely reported the sales price to tax authorities to evade the tax, according to prosecutors.

He was the first relative of the former president ever to stand trial since prosecutors restarted efforts to reclaim Chun's hidden assets in May.

The move also comes after another ex-president, Roh Tae-woo, paid off the remainder of his unpaid fines amounting to 23 billion won on Wednesday. Roh was also convicted of the same charges as former president Chun in 1997.

Roh, who replaced Chun as president from 1988 to 1993, was ordered by the Supreme Court to pay back 262.8 billion won that he was found to have illegally accumulated during his presidency.

Roh's younger brother and former in-law, former Shindongbang Group Chairman Shin Myung-soo, paid the 23 billion won on behalf of the elder Roh.

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