(ATTN: UPDATES with more details in paras 5-8)
SEOUL, Aug. 21 (Yonhap) -- Former President Chun Doo-hwan has been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer that affects plasma cells, sources familiar with the matter said Saturday.
The 90-year-old former military strongman has been hospitalized in Yonsei Severance Hospital in western Seoul since he returned from a 660-kilometer round trip to the southwestern city of Gwangju to attend an appellate court hearing on a defamation case.
The gaunt-looking Chun appeared at the Gwangju District Court's appellate division on Aug. 9 and left the courtroom only 25 minutes after the hearing began citing breathing difficulties. He answered some of the judge's questions with the help of his wife and was seen dozing off.
"(Chun) has been in bad health for a while," his close aide told Yonhap News by phone. "He is expected to be hospitalized for a while."
Last November, the Gwangju District Court sentenced Chun to eight months in prison, suspended for two years, for defaming the late Catholic priest Cho Pius, who testified to having witnessed Chun's troops shooting from helicopters at Gwangju's pro-democracy demonstrators.
Chun was indicted in May 2018 on defamation charges after denouncing Cho as a "shameless liar" in his controversial memoirs published in 2017.
The former Army general seized power in a 1979 coup, and his troops ruthlessly cracked down on the 1980 uprising, leaving more than 200 dead and 1,800 others wounded, according to conservative official data.
Chun received a death sentence in 1996 for treason and bribery but was released in December 1997 on a presidential pardon.
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