Chung Seung Hwa, South Korea's top general until he was toppled three months ago, was sentenced to ten years in prison today for aiding the assassin of President Park Chung Hee.
The man who directed martial law in the days immediately following Park's slaying last October was sentenced this morning by a military tribunal, which found him guilty of assisting the convicted killer, Kim Jae Kyu.
Because he is now retired, Chung can appeal his conviction to civilian courts. Military prosecutors had asked for a 15-year sentence but the military court, headed by a vice admiral of the South Korean Navy, trimmed it to 10 years.
Chung was arrested in a bloody insurrection within the military by younger officers on the night of last Dec. 12. His arrest was their justification for the uprising, which has since resulted in the systematic dismissal and reassignment of scores of older officers.
Chung, a career officer, was Army chief of staff at the time of Park's assassination on Oct. 26 and became martial law commander early the next morning. He wielded broad national power until he was ousted six weeks later. Military prosecutors responsible to the new generals in power never accused Chung of taking part in the assassination, but charged he aided the killer and failed to arrest him until ordered to do so four hours after the slaying.
Park was shot to death by Kim, former director of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency, at a dinner party in a KCIA dining hall not far from the presidential mansion here. Convicted of killing Park in a abortive attempt to take over the government, Kim had been sentenced to death.
Chung was dining nearby at the time of the killing and has admitted hearing the shots and leaving the scene with Kim a few moments later. They rode together in a car to a military command post where Kim insisted on keeping the assassination secret and on moving troops to protect the capital in case North Korean troops attempted an attack.
Testimony at the court martial showed that Chung had appeared to be assisting Kim by asking him which troops should be mobilized. He finally arrested Kim on orders of the defense minister after an eyewitness informed them that Kim was the killer.
The prosecution insisted that the former general must have known earlier that Kim killed the president and had failed to arrest him because he hoped to share power under a new military regime.