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This article was published 8/9/2008 (3264 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
SEOUL, South Korea - A taekwondo master who has acknowledged taking part in a failed plot to assassinate a former South Korean president in Canada at the direction of North Korea returned home to the South on Monday after decades overseas.
Choi Jung-hwa, however, was expected to be cleared of most of the allegations against him because he voluntarily returned and the statue of limitations on many of them have expired, said senior prosecutor Oh Se-in.
Choi, who once lived in Mississauga, Ont., hired two agents to shoot president Chun Doo-hwan during a'82 visit to Canada, according to Oh Chang-jin, an aide to Choi. The plot, however, was detected and Choi went into hiding in eastern Europe and North Korea.
In'91, he surrendered to Canadian authorities and was sentenced to six years in prison, but was released after one year for good behaviour, Oh said.
"I was unintentionally involved" in the assassination attempt case, Choi told a news conference Monday. "I think that's because of my political naivety or spirit of adventure. I made such a mistake due to this combination of factors."
Choi, 54, played a leading role in promoting taekwondo in the North together with his father Choi Hong-hi, who founded the now pro-Pyongyang, Vienna-based International Taekwondo Federation in'66.
Choi's father, however, emigrated to Canada in'72 following squabbles with the South's staunchly anti-communist ruling military regime. Choi followed two years later and became a Canadian citizen.
South Korea founded a new taekwondo association in'73 - the World Taekwondo Federation, or WTF - which is now recognized by the International Olympic Committee as the sport's official body.
Choi's father died of a cancer in 2002 and Pyongyang named a North Korean to head the ITF. An angry Choi, also known as James Choi, established another taekwondo body in Canada, claiming it was the sole legitimate ITF.
Oh said that Choi has recently accused North Korea of using taekwondo experts as intelligence agents.
On-and-off talks on merging the WTF and the Vienna-based ITF have taken place in recent years, but no substantial agreement was forged.
Taekwondo is a national sport in South Korea, where all soldiers must train in the martial art.
The two Koreas fought the'50-53 Korean War that ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty, meaning the sides are still technically in state of war.
-With files from The Canadian Press.