Time for national integrationPresident Park Geun-hye plans to grant special pardons to a number of convicts on August 15, the 70th anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japan’s colonial rule. The pardons are the first since she took office two and a half years ago. Given her persistently negative attitude toward pardons, people are wondering, “Why now?”
Pundits are curious to know if she will pardon political and economic leaders indicted on corruption charges, including SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won, who with his brother Chey Jae-won was sentenced in 2013 to four years in prison for embezzlement.
Considering the president’s emphasis on “national development and integration” as the reason for the pardons, their scope will probably be bigger than expected. The sweeping Middle East respiratory syndrome outbreak and the 2014 Sewol ferry tragedy have triggered unprecedented political and social chaos and immense damage to our economy.
In addition, the friction between the Saenuri Party and the Blue House over a controversial revision to the National Assembly law has exacerbated schisms among politicians. To make things worse, external factors like the Greek bailout and the alarming fluctuations of China’s stock markets make the future of our economy more opaque.
President Park’s special pardons against such a backdrop could be a timely reaction to the internal and external crisis for our growth and the integration of our people.
The president’s stress on the need for measures to rejuvenate our supine exports and boost domestic demand - two pillars of economic recovery - before ordering her secretaries to consider the option of special pardons raises the possibility of granting special pardons to corporate leaders behind bars.
But the president must be careful not to let the pardons look like a special favor to convicts, as the opposition thinks. President Park criticized former president Roh Moo-hyun for allowing a special pardon for the construction tycoon Sung Wan-jong, who committed suicide in April, leaving a controversial list of political bigwigs who allegedly took money from him. President Park’s special pardons must follow a concrete set of standards closely enough to earn public support. That’s the only way to uphold her cherished rule of law.
The presidential pardon must not be an event with political goals. The people want her to keep marching toward national integration. We hope the president takes a step closer to the goal of grand politics.
JoongAng Ilbo, July 14, Page 30