[EDITORIALS]Smelly pardons

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[EDITORIALS]Smelly pardons

The presidential pardon announced Tuesday for 122 convicted business and government officials may well be criticized as an abuse of presidential power. There is no clear-cut explanation or justification for the year-end pardons, and it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the measure was a favor given to favored people. No wonder that the legal community protested the pardons.

Special amnesties have been called a remnant of authoritarian regimes that, at a stroke, nullified judicial decisions and the operations of the law. Under the military regimes, presidential pardons were problems because they were arbitrary and reeked of favoritism. Such pardons are hard to come by in law-based democratic states. Contrary to worldwide practice, every administration here has given pardons every year.

The government said it pardoned businessmen, government officials, election law violators, illegal demonstrators and foreign workers and commuted some death sentences to life in prison to better protect human rights and to induce the criminals to again contribute to the country's development. It is understandable, under that logic, that the government pardoned long-term prisoners or those with illness, but some of the pardons went to people who do not deserve them. It smacks of a back-room deal, though, to pardon persons whose cases were under appeal but who had yet not begun to serve time.

How does the government hope to curb corruption or maintain civic discipline when it hands out pardons as quickly as some persons are convicted? We also question whether it was appropriate to let off easily businessmen who played a major role in triggering our nation's economic crisis of five years ago.

We agree with an Internet post by a senior judge, Lee Chung-sang of the Seongnam district court. He complained about past abuse of pardons by presidents, and called for curbs to be put on the president's power of pardon in order to uphold the judiciary's right to mete out appropriate punishment on lawbreaking politicians. It is time to seriously consider a mechanism that could check abuse of presidential power.
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