Controversy over parole
A recent comment by Justice Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn - that business tycoons in jail, too, should get a fair review for parole - became controversial because it was interpreted as the government turning soft on chaebol families.
Hwang said, “Businessmen, like any well-behaved inmates, could be granted release ahead of their term if they meet the criteria. We should not exclude businessmen from parole review.”
Park Young-sun, floor leader for the opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, claimed that the justice minister was lobbying on behalf of corporate tycoons. Choi Kyung-hwan, finance minister and deputy prime minister for the economy, said excessively stringent law enforcement on businessmen does not help the economy. He said he supported Hwang’s comment, as there are few signs of improvement in corporate investment.
But we must set the record straight first. Hwang has never indicated that the chaebol executives who are currently serving jail sentences for irregularities could be released early. He clarified that there won’t be any favoritism for corrupt politicians or businessmen.
He meant to say that if businessmen returned the illegally amassed wealth to society and fulfilled the terms for parole, they could be given the same evaluation as other prisoners.
Gone are the days when business tycoons were let off easily with three-year jail terms, five-year probation court rulings or presidential pardons. Terms of bail and serving jail time have become harsh. LIG Group’s father-son owners, Taekwang Group’s mother-son owners and the brothers of SK Group are all in jail.
SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won, who received a four-year sentence, has already spent 20 months in jail. He is serving the longest prison term for a chaebol owner and has completed a third of his term, making him eligible for parole.
Corruption at businesses and other illegalities are no longer tolerated. But prisoners should not be discriminated against just because of their social or business status. If the government acts according to law and principles, parole for businessmen could be understood.
JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 26, Page 34