On 17 May 1980, Chun's new military declared martial law. The following day, mass demonstrations were staged in Kwangju to protest the imposition of martial law and especially the arrest of Kim Dae Jung, the perennial South Korean opposition leader. The street demonstrations nearly escalated into a full-fledged armed revolt. Chun's military swiftly and brutally suppressed the Kwangju uprising. In August 1980, he completed his junta by declaring himself president.
Chun sought to divert public attention from his repressive rule with proposals for a summit meeting with Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK, North Korea) leader Kim Il Sung. The North Korean government responded by attempting to assassinate Chun when he visited Rangoon, Burma, in October 1983. Toward the end of Chun's reign, South Koreans were demanding an end to military rule. June 1987 witnessed the downfall of Chun and the effective end of military-backed authoritarianism. On 29 June 1987, Roh Tae Woo, handpicked by Chun to be his successor, announced, with Chun's agreement, that he would accept a new constitution with a provision for direct presidential election. Under it, Roh was elected president on 16 December 1987, and the era of democratization began. In 1995, Chun was tried, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison for the 1979 military mutiny, the 1980 Kwangju massacre, and corruption in office. He was freed under a special amnesty in December 1997.
Oberdorfer, Don. The Two Koreas: A Contemporary History. Revised and updated ed. New York: Basic Books, 2002.