Coup-plotting General Returns to South Korea After Five Years on the Run

The ruling People Power Party had been attempting to whitewash the coup attempt.

Coup-plotting General Returns to South Korea After Five Years on the Run

Image: Diagram of planned troop movement to crack down the Candlelight Protests of 2016-17, based on the coup plan document of the Defense Security Command.  Credit: Military Human Rights Center.

Former general Jo Hyeon-cheon 조현천, who plotted a coup during the impeachment of Park Geun-hye 박근혜, returned to South Korea after five years as a fugitive. The former chief of the Defense Security Command 육군 기무사령부 had been hiding in the United States after his plan to have the impeached Park declare martial law came to light.

The plan would have sent more than 750 tanks and armored cars, as well as over 5.2k soldiers and paratroopers, to arrest Democratic Party 민주당 lawmakers and crack down on the ongoing Candlelight Protests 촛불시위.

The ruling People Power Party 국민의힘 has claimed that Jo was merely drafting a contingency plan for a chaotic situation - an explanation previously rejected by the court that tried Jo’s underling. (See previous coverage, “Conservatives Whitewash the Coup Plot.”) Upon his return, Jo was arrested at the airport, but the Yoon Suk-yeol administration charged Jo only with abuse of authority 직권남용 and interference with politics 정치관여, and not with mutiny or insurrection.

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