Grant pardons judiciouslyTo mark President Lee Myung-bak’s 100th day in the Blue House, the Korean government announced yesterday that it will grant special pardons to 2.82 million people, most of whom violated the Road Traffic Act.
Traffic offenders who making a living by driving are included in the list of pardons. Their traffic demerits will be cleared and their suspended driver’s licenses will be restored.
The Ministry of Justice said it made the decision to give new opportunities to traffic offenders, for national reconciliation and the stabilization of the public’s livelihood.
We can understand the goal of the government in taking care of traffic offenders engaged in the transportation business as a means of making a living. The government should not, however, abuse its right to grant amnesty because the pardons could go against existing law and principals in Korea.
Furthermore, Lee already vowed not to misuse the mercy prerogative during his presidential campaign last December. After the announcement, his decision has become a target of public criticism.
A lot of people say the special pardons are an attempt to mollify people amid public outrage over the government’s resumption of U.S. beef imports.
We know the president has authority to grant amnesty, but it should be done judiciously and not go against laws and principles. As a result, Lee should take a cautious attitude before he decides to grant pardons.
In fact, granting amnesties to traffic offenders causes an increase in traffic accidents, according to statistics.
A total of 10.13 million traffic offenders were pardoned by former President Kim Dae-jung in March 1998 and July 2002. Another 4.2 million people who violated traffic regulations were granted amnesty during the term of the previous President Roh Moo-hyun.
The traffic accident rate was 3.11 percent from February 1997 until the 1998 pardons, but the Kim administration faced a 0.33 percent increase in traffic accidents after the pardons. In 2002, the number of traffic accidents increased by 0.45 percent after the pardons, while the number of traffic accidents rose by 0.49 percent after the 2005 action.
The Ministry of Justice said that the current decision passed by the Amnesty Judging Committee is fair and transparent.
However, Lee said that his administration will put more emphasis on sticking to current law and principles than previous administrations. Granting pardons to people to appease the public should be done away with.