[EDITORIALS]Revise the amnesty lawTo commemorate the 60th anniversary of national liberation, the government has given a special amnesty to more than 4.2 million law breakers. The largest among them are 4,207,000 traffic law violators. Also included are 13 people convicted of election law felonies, for receiving illegal campaign donations during the 2002 presidential election, and 204 people affiliated with Hanchongryon, a student organization banned under the National Security Law.
The Ministry of Justice said that the amnesty was intended to promote national integration and help the livelihood of ordinary people. Pardoning first-time violators who committed minor offenses, or who violated administrative regulations due to difficulties in managing their lives frees them from legal restraints. However, despite the good intent, suspicions have been raised that the clemency is actually aimed at saving a few politicians, and that the enormous scale of the pardon is meant to mask this. Most of the pardoned politicians will be given another chance to start over again in politics.
The government has tried to explain that those convicted of graft were excluded from the amnesty because of the strong national demand to clean up corruption. However, some people convicted of corruption or election irregularities are included in it ― a politician who received bribes in return for giving a permit for construction of a shopping mall and a former cabinet minister who accepted bribes from businesses are but two. Since the government itself has violated the principle of the amnesty, we wonder whether it has the will to eradicate corruption.
Amnesty is a presidential right that supercedes the rule of law. But there is no legal provision that binds its conditions, scope, standards or timing. It means that there is a danger of amnesty being used for political purposes. Therefore, the view that the Amnesty Law, which has not been changed since its enactment in 1948, should be revised grows in significance. Five draft revisions are before the Assembly, but they have not been discussed because of objections from the governing party. To prevent the abuse of amnesty, an institution that can check the presidential right, such as an amnesty deliberation council, should be created and those judged eligible for pardon should be decided on in a legal manner. Politicians must revise the law immediately.