No tycoons on Justice Ministry’s parole list

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No tycoons on Justice Ministry’s parole list

The Justice Ministry decided not to parole business leaders behind bars, disappointing some companies, especially SK Group, which hoped to see its boss and his brother set free.

The Justice Ministry Tuesday released a list of candidates for early parole this month, a day after President Park Geun-hye said during her New Year’s press briefing there should be neither special nor unfair treatment for jailed executives. Reiterating the presidential office’s earlier stance, Park said it was up to the Justice Ministry to decide whether to set some imprisoned executives free by taking into account public sentiment and a sense of equality.

Though Park’s remarks did not explicit state support for early releases, expectations in the business community rose because they did not denounce the idea of paroles. Now that the Justice Ministry decided not to release jailed tycoons, the business community will wait to see if President Park will exercise a special pardon for them for Independence Day on March 1.

Talk about paroles for tycoons has been floated over the past month after a number of lawmakers from the ruling Saenuri Party and Finance Minister Choi Kyung-hwan said releasing imprisoned businessmen could help the administration’s efforts to jump-start the economy. The names most commonly mentioned are SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won; Chey Jae-won, his younger brother and vice chairman of the group; and Koo Bon-sang, the former vice chairman of LIG Nex1.

Key opposition lawmakers objected to those suggestions, which they branded special treatment for business chiefs.

Rep. Moon Jae-in, who is running for the chairmanship of the opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, said Tuesday that releasing business leaders on parole would rupture a sense of economic justice, stressing that they have already been given special treatment by receiving much lighter jail terms than what normal defendants would have received.

In order to meet the criteria for parole, inmates must serve a third or more of their sentences and demonstrate good behavior. The elder Chey of SK Group is serving the longest prison term of any conglomerate owner and has completed a third of his term.

He was convicted in January 2013 on multiple charges including embezzlement and was sentenced to four years in prison. Chey will serve his 714th day in jail Wednesday.

CJ Group Chairman Lee Jay-hyun is currently ineligible for parole, although he could walk out of prison if President Park grants him a special pardon in March. There are no preconditions for inmates to be eligible for a presidential pardon.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]


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