United States Returns Forfeited Assets of Former South Korean President Chun Doo Hwan

David Lee, Nov. 10, 2015, 7:35 a.m.

The U.S. Justice Department has returned some US$1.1 million in U.S. assets that belonged to former South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan to Seoul, officials said Tuesday. It marks the first time the U.S. has returned laundered money to South Korea.

Justice Minister Kim Hyun-woong met with his U.S. counterpart Loretta Lynch on Monday at the headquarters of the U.S. Justice Department in Washington D.C. to retrieve the assets for the South, the ministry said in a press release.

It has been two years since the ministry requested collaboration with its U.S. counterpart in August 2013. The assets, seized on two occasions last year, consist of $726,000 in proceeds from the sale of a house that Chun's son purchased in California, and a $500,000 investment that Chun's daughter-in-law made in a Pennsylvania limited partnership.

Chun Doo-hwan, who seized power in a military coup in 1979, was ordered by the Supreme Court in 1997 to return to state coffers some 220.5 billion won he had accumulated illegally while in office from 1981 to 1988. He refused to make most of the payment, claiming he was almost penniless.

Prosecutors seized about 600 pieces of art during their search of houses owned by the former president's family members in July 2013 and sold them at auction, adding 7.2 billion won to state coffers. The family has yet to pay roughly 100 billion won, about half of the original amount.

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