Presidential pardons cross the political divide

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Presidential pardons cross the political divide

In a major reconciliatory gesture to heal disputes with political opponents in both the ruling Grand National Party and opposition Democratic Party, President Lee Myung-bak yesterday announced special pardons to Roh Geon-pyeong, the brother of late former President Roh Moo-hyun, and Suh Chung-won, a close aide to Ms. Park, to mark the Aug. 15 Liberation Day today.

President Lee Myung-bak granted special pardons to 2,493 convicts. “There’s has been a principle not to give pardons to people who were embroiled in corruption under the current government, but an exception was given in an effort to unite and reconcile the [divided] society,” President Lee was quoted as saying during yesterday’s Cabinet meeting by Blue House spokeswoman Kim Hee-jung.

In regard to special pardons to influential business leaders, Lee said he is offering them a chance to contribute to society by creating jobs.

“From now on sex convicts will be exempted from being included in the pardon list and they will be excluded from parole, too,” Lee said.

The head of state normally uses the Liberation Day holiday, which celebrates the end of Japanese colonial rule in Korea, to give pardons to politicians and business executives to achieve national reconciliation.

Those who were pardoned included 2,375 people involved in illegal political campaigning, 59 political figures and 18 business leaders.

Four key political aides to former President Roh Moo-hyun were released, including Chung Sang-moon, former presidential secretary for administrative affairs during Roh’s presidency.

Suh Chung-won, the former head of the anti-Lee, Park Geun-hye faction in the GNP who was convicted for accepting illegal political funding, may be freed from prison by the end of the year after his jail term was reduced and he may still receive a special parole.

The Blue House pardoned 18 of the 78 businessmen that Korea’s five major business associations submitted to the Blue House for consideration.

They included Park Kun-bae, former Haitai Group chairman; Yoo Sang-boo, former chairman of Posco; Kim Jun-ki, chairman of the Dongbu Group and Lee Hak-soo, currently an adviser for Samsung Electronics Corp. But Kim Woo-chung, the founder of the defunct Daewoo Group, and Chung Tae-soo, the former Hanbo Group chairman, did not receive a presidential pardon because they have not paid their fines.

The Federation of Korean Industries welcomed the announcement by saying the presidential pardons “created an opportunity for businesses to expedite economic growth.”

While the Grand National Party hailed President Lee’s decision, Park Sun-young, spokeswoman for the conservative opposition Liberty Forward Party was critical.

“Lee abused his power and he reversed his promise that he wouldn’t make politically-motivated pardons,” Park said.

Suh Byung-soo, a GNP representative allied with Park Geun-hye, said the presidential pardon would represent a stepping stone that could mend the rift between the Lee and Park factions within the GNP.

Opposition Democratic Party said Lee made too many business-friendly pardons.

“Lee’s pardon gave priority to business tycoons and senior executives and that’s a pardon for the haves, while leaving guilty convictions for the have-nots,” DP Spokeswoman Jeon Hyeon-heui said.

By Kim Mi-ju []
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