U.S. Seeks to Return Dictator-Linked Funds to SKorea

Photo via MBC News: Chun Doo-hwan (left) and his son Chun Jae-yong (right)

U.S. officials are seeking court permission to seize over $700,000 from the sale of a Southern California home linked to a former South Korean dictator and to turn it over to the Korean government, theAssociated Press reported.

Federal prosecutors filed a civil forfeiture complaint Thursday with the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. They allege that Chun Jae-yong, son of former South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan, bought a home in Newport Beach, Calif., in 2005 with money his father received through bribes. After Chun Jae-yong sold the Newport Beach home in February for about $2.1 million, federal officials seized net sale proceeds of nearly $727,000 that were placed in an escrow account, according to the forfeiture complaint.

With court approval, the money will be returned to the South Korean government.


The Chun family “laundered some of these corruption proceeds through a web of nominees and shell companies in both Korea and the United States,” a U.S. Justice Department statement read, according to AP.


AP noted that no information was available on whether the Chun family had retained a lawyer in the case, which had South Korean and U.S. prosecutors working together as part of the Justice Department’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative.

“The U.S. will not be a safe repository for assets misappropriated by corrupt foreign leaders,” the FBI’s assistant director Bill Lewis said in the Justice Department statement. “The FBI is committed to working with foreign and domestic partners to identify and return those assets to the legitimate owners, in this case, the people of the Republic of Korea.”

Chun Doo-hwan ruled South Korea as an unelected military leader from 1979 to 1988, following a bloody military 1979 coup. He was sentenced to death in the mid-90s for his role in the Gwangju Massacre, but was pardoned later by the Kim Young-sam administration.