Worries over MB’s plan for last-minute pardons

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Worries over MB’s plan for last-minute pardons


Criticism boiled up yesterday over growing media speculation that President Lee Myung-bak is considering granting pardons in his final month in office to free his close associates of corruption convictions.

Sources at the Blue House have said a plan to grant presidential pardons is being reviewed in time with the Lunar New Year on Feb. 10.

“Many requests were made from the religious, business and political communities,” said a senior presidential aide. “They said the pardons should be granted since Lee’s term is nearly at its end.”

Park Jeong-ha, presidential spokesman, also said Wednesday that various official and unofficial requests were made for presidential pardons, but no specifics have been decided.


Another Blue House official said the presidential office is currently contemplating who should be pardoned.

“If pardons are granted, it will likely be for people who committed petty crimes due to hardships in their livelihoods,” he said.

Speculations grew that Lee’s close associates convicted of corruption could be included on the list of people to receive pardons.

Lee’s elder brother, Lee Sang-deuk, is currently standing trial, while his key associates, including former Korea Communications Commission Chairman Choi See-joong and Chun Shin-il, chairman of Sejoong Namo Tour, were convicted of graft charges and imprisoned.

Kim Jae-hong, a cousin of the first lady, Kim Yoon-ok, was also convicted of receiving bribes from a troubled savings bank in return for using his influence.

The president has the right to grant a special pardon without the National Assembly’s approval for people whose convictions are finalized. Choi and Kim, after they lost their first appeals last year, gave up making final appeals to the Supreme Court.

Their decisions made them eligible for Lee’s special pardon.

Lee’s elder brother, however, is still standing trial.

The president can pardon him without the legislature’s approval after the case is closed.

The 78-year-old former lawmaker was indicted last year over a series of graft scandals.

The prosecution was allowed to have his custody for six months, and the period will be over on Jan. 25. If the ruling is not out by then, he will be tried on bail.

While President-elect Park Geun-hye remained silent about the growing speculation of the outgoing president’s move, the Blue House faced snowballing criticism yesterday.

“The president’s associates were punished by law for abusing their power,” Park Yong-jin, spokesman of the opposition Democratic United Party, said in a statement.

“The president is now trying to abuse his power and grant pardons to them. That will be remembered as the worst power abuse of history.”

Park also said the president-elect must make clear whether Lee had discussed the presidential pardon plan in advance with her and whether she agrees with it or not.

The ruling Saenuri Party also showed concerns about the situation.

“After media reports that Lee is considering granting special pardons to his relatives and associates, many people are worried,” said Lee Hye-hoon, a member of the party’s Supreme Council, during a leadership meeting yesterday.

“Although the president has special power to grant pardons, it must be exercised with discretion to appeal to the common sense of people.”

By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]
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