Former President Chun Doo-hwan, saying he's ashamed of human rights abuses and corruption during his rule, told the nation Wednesday he is surrendering $24 million and going into internal exile.
But opposition leaders demanded a thorough investigation into corruption under Chun and said he must account for billions of dollars they contend was misappropriated. They doubted the apology would be sufficient."I am pained and ashamed of my past. I have no intention at all to make an excuse," Chun, looking tired and strained, said in a nationally televised address. "I have to bear full responsibility for the past seven years, which is branded by the people as an era of authoritarianism and misdeeds, although I tried to do my best in my way."
Chun made a special apology for the military suppression of a 1980 uprising by students and citizens in the southern city of Kwangju that left about 200 people dead. He described the incident as a "tragedy."
Chun said he was turning over his property to the government, including his Seoul house, two golf club memberships and $3.3 million in cash. He also said he would return about $20 million in political funds.
Millions of Koreans watched the live 30-minute broadcast. People flocked around TV sets in shops and offices, and traffic was light as people stayed home to see Chun's apology.
Chun and his wife, Lee Soon-ja, left their home after the speech to go into exile at an undisclosed rural location in a traditional gesture of apology. Lee wept while her husband sat stone-faced in the car that took them away.
The couple spent the first day of exile in a remote Buddhist temple in eastern South Korea. Newspapers said they would stay in a nearby village for a while but would move occasionally for security reasons. Radical groups have vowed to punish Chun.
About 50 radical students armed with firebombs and steel rods tried to rush Chun's home after the speech, but they were stopped by some of the 5,000 riot police ringing the area. Chun had already left.
Radical students and dissidents called for daily protests to demand Chun's arrest. Dissident groups said the apology was an empty gesture and denounced President Roh Tae-woo for trying to protect his predecessor.
Seoul newspapers reported Wednesday that Roh plans to pardon Chun in the next few days and reshuffle the government to remove supporters of the former president. Officials declined comment.
Roh, another former general and close ally of Chun, is trying to defuse mounting public anger against the former president without damaging himself and the government he took over from Chun. Some opposition groups are calling for Roh's removal, contending he is a front for military rule.
Many observers doubt Chun's apology will defuse the crisis and Roh is expected to face more problems in coming weeks. Roh took office as Chun's seven-year term ended in February. He had won a presidential election by a plurality but not a majority, as the opposition vote was split by two candidates, Kim Dae-jung and Kim Young-sam.
Kim Dae-jung told reporters opposition leaders would call for appointment of a special prosecutor to expose corruption under the Chun government.
He said Chun's apology was "personally sincere," but did not go far enough. He charged that billions of dollars were misappropriated under Chun and called for a full accounting.
Kim Young-sam said he pitied Chun but that further investigation was necessary: "The truth must be clearly disclosed."