August 27, 2018 12:34
The wife of ex-president Chun Doo-hwan on Sunday said her husband is unfit to stand trial for defamation because he has advanced dementia.
In his memoirs published last year, Chun claimed that the activist priest Cho Chul-hyun was lying when he said he witnessed soldiers firing at citizens from helicopters during the bloody suppression of the Gwangju Uprising against Chun's military regime in 1980.
But Lee Soon-ja said in a statement issued through a lawyer, "Judging by the physical health of my husband, who is suffering from Alzheimer's disease, attending a trial will be impossible."
The charges were brought by the priest's nephew because Cho died in 2015. Korea is one of a few countries that recognize a charge of defaming the dead.
There were rumors that Chun would appear in court in Gwangju on Monday, but Lee said her husband "was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2013 and has been taking medication." She claimed Chun (87) "has problems remembering things that just happened."
"The public probably does not want to see a former president of this country appearing in court and repeating incoherent comments and giving irrelevant answers," she speculated.
More implausibly, Lee also claimed that her husband's Alzheimer's disease was caused by his hunger strike when he was jailed years ago and due to prosecutors investigating him. Lee said Chun went on hunger strike for 28 days when he was jailed in 1995 for his role in the Gwangju massacre and was hospitalized. She added that a doctor told her Chun may have suffered brain damage from fasting.
She said he suffered memory loss and mental distress when prosecutors raided his house and the homes of his family in 2013 to confiscate his assets to pay for the hundreds of billions of won he owes in fines.
"He was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease after that incident," Lee said.
The Gwangju District Court decided to proceed with the trial as he failed to submit a letter of excuse or request to reschedule, and may compel him to attend.
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