No quid pro quo

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No quid pro quo

Controversy arises again over whether to give parole to business leaders in jail for fraud, corruption or other corporate malpractices. Minister of Justice Hwang Kyo-an first raised the issue by stating, “Corporate leaders are eligible for parole as long as they meet the requirements.” Then Choi Kyung-hwan, deputy prime minister for the economy and finance minister, joined the chorus by suggesting to President Park Geun-hye the need for special treatment of tycoons given their power to get the lackluster economy back on track. Kim Moo-sung, chairman of the ruling Saenuri Party, also leaped on the bandwagon by gleefully agreeing to the idea. The ruling party sooner or later plans to propose the paroles after discussing the issue in a Supreme Council meeting and consulting with the opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy.

The Blue House stopped short of directly mentioning the possibility by saying, “Parole falls under the jurisdiction of the justice minister.” Nevertheless, the minister’s comments could well translate into his de facto consent. The justice minister has the exclusive authority of granting special paroles to business bigwigs. He or she doesn’t need presidential approval or consent from the political establishment. To put it simply, the decision is up to the minister.

Still, the justice minister’s cautious raising of the issue followed by the finance minister’s supportive comments reflects a pretty strong political push by the administration. They should tread carefully. Considering the public outrage over the macadamia nut scandal involving a family that controls the nation’s top airliner, the early release of fraudulent corporate leaders could be an extremely explosive issue for both the government and political circles, as it calls for the people’s acceptance beyond the realm of the law.

Shortly after the justice minister’s remarks, we made our position clear that the government must neither offer special privileges to business leaders nor should the leaders suffer reverse discrimination. That position is based on our belief that as long as a principle is strictly upheld by the Justice Ministry and it determines paroles in a fair and transparent manner, those who meet the legal requirement must not be excluded from the parole list just because they are from the corporate sector. Fortunately, voices are growing in the opposition to grant equal opportunity to business leaders. Yet the government must not grant them parole in exchange for promises to increase investments. It should be a matter of principles, not a business transaction.

JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 27, Page 30

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