[EDITORIALS]Election Crimes Deserve No Pardons

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[EDITORIALS]Election Crimes Deserve No Pardons

The Millennium Democratic Party announced that it would recommend to the Blue House pardons, reinstatement of legal rights, and the cancellation of police searches for persons indicted for or convicted of political or security crimes. Of the 448 persons the ruling party wants pardoned, it said, 48 are national security law violators, 110 were convicted of illegal demonstrations or protests and 96 are election law violators. The party wants 148 students and 66 labor officials removed from police wanted lists.

Pardon and rehabilitation are written into law as the sole prerogative of the president. But there are many bad effects of the action, such as infringement on judiciary rights, that damages the constitutionality of the government. The presidential pardon right is a legacy of the past that must remain rarely used in a democratic society. But in Korea it is a mechanism resorted to by governments without legitimacy to gain public support as they exercised the power originally established by a military coup d'etat.

Even after the inauguration of the present government, special pardons were granted on five occasions. This practice should be stopped.

In particular, the 96 persons accused of having violated election laws should be dropped from the pardon list. Wrangling over illegal election practices follows every election. The people are nearly unanimous in thinking that election crimes must be severely punished to improve our politics. Both the executive and the judiciary have threatened and promised stringent measures, but punishment never comes. Soft rulings have fostered a culture of "win by all means."

Those on the party's pardon list are said to be mostly candidates for local government offices who lost their right to run in local elections in 1998, and politicians punished for minor cases of bribery. The ruling party claims that their trivial crimes merit a pardon. But if their penalties were "heavy"enough to be banned from being candidates in a culture that treats such crimes gently, were the offenses really trivial? Courts and prosecutors with a gentle touch and politicians trying to rescue their brethren are acting counter to the public sense of justice. It is doubtful that any pardons are necessary now. But if they are inevitable, election law violators and politicians should be cut from the list.
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