US seeks $900,000 in assets of former South Korean strongman

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States on Thursday said it is seeking to recover more than US$700,000 in alleged corruption proceeds of South Korea's disgraced former strongman Chun Doo-Hwan.

The US Justice Department filed a civil forfeiture complaint in a US federal court in California to confiscate the funds, which were seized in the sale of a house in Newport Beach, California purchased by Chun's son, Chun Jae Yong, in 2005.

The house was allegedly purchased with the benefits of the father's corrupt dealings, and the Justice Department said it was sold by Chun's relatives. They are seeking to take control of US$721,951 (S$908,604) from the sale.

"While serving as Korea's president, Chun Doo-Hwan betrayed the Korean people by taking over US$200 million in bribes, some of which his family members then illegally laundered into the United States," said Acting Assistant Attorney General David O'Neil in a statement.

The US is working with South Korean justice officials to confiscate the assets, the department said.

Chun, now 83, seized power after the 1979 assassination of longtime military ruler Park Chung-Hee, and led the country for eight turbulent years marred by extensive corruption.

In a judgment confirmed by South Korea's Supreme Court in 1997, Chun was convicted of insurrection and corruption and ordered to pay 220 billion won in restitution to the South Korean state.

He only returned a small portion of the sum, arguing that he did not possess the necessary cash or assets.

Lat month South Korean auction houses said they had raised 7.2 billion won in the sale of 600 art works confiscated from his family.

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