US seeks $700K linked to S. Korea's ex-president


The Department of Justice filed a civil forfeiture complaint seeking to recover more than $700,000 in corruption proceeds linked to Chun Doo-hwan, the former president of South Korea, U.S. officials said Thursday.

The funds were seized in February from the sale of a house in Newport Beach, Calif., which the former president's son, Chun Jae Yong, purchased in 2005 with monies the U.S. said are traceable to his father's corruption.

Former South Korean President Chun Doo-Hwan(C) is arrested by prosecution authorities at a relative's house in Hapchon, on December 3rd, 1995.
Kim Jae-Hewan | AFP | Getty Images

"We are making crystal clear that the United States will not tolerate the use of its financial system by corrupt foreign officials—or their relatives—to harbor their ill-gotten gains," Acting Assistant Attorney David General O'Neil said in a statement.

The ex-president was convicted in Korea in 1997 of receiving more than $200 million in bribes from Korean businesses and companies, some of which his family members then illegally laundered into the U.S., according to the forfeiture complaint.

Chun Doo-hwan was ordered to pay back the funds he collected, but he returned only a portion, arguing he was broke.

Chun, a former army general, seized power in a 1979 coup and ruled the country with an iron fist until early 1988. He was arrested in 1995 and received a death sentence after being convicted of corruption, mutiny and treason, though he was pardoned in 1997 in a bid for national reconciliation.

Last year, family members announced that they will hand over real estate, paintings and other assets to the South Korean government to pay back the remaining money.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.