Saenuri presses president to pardon businessmen

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Saenuri presses president to pardon businessmen

Leaders from the ruling party urged President Park Geun-hye on Wednesday to include high-profile businessmen and politicians in her list of special pardons next month.

“I will propose to the president to grant magnanimous pardons to convicted businessmen and politicians within the scope that is acceptable to the public so that it will serve as an opportunity to unify the nation,” Rep. Won Yoo-chul, the Saenuri Party’s new floor leader, said in an interview Wednesday with SBS radio.

Won said releasing the convicted businessmen was necessary to revive the economy and stimulate corporate investment, adding that he would make the proposal when he meets with the president today.

Saeuri Chairman Kim Moo-sung and Rep. Kim Jung-hoon, the party’s new chief policy maker, are also scheduled to visit the Blue House with Won today for talks.

“It’s inappropriate to mention specific people, but it’s true that the people were disappointed to see the conflict between the previous and current administrations,” Won continued, referencing a group of allies to former President Lee Myung-bak who were convicted on corruption charges and barred from running in the next elections.

The group includes former National Assembly Speaker Lee Sang-deuk, the older brother of the former president, who served a 14-month prison term for taking bribes in 2007.

Park said Monday that she will issue special pardons in time for Korea’s Liberation Day on Aug. 15, and ordered her secretariat to review a list of convicts who will receive them.

She said the pardons will be granted “for the country’s development and national unity.”

While it is customary for Korea’s presidents to issue special pardons on the holiday, Park has refrained from exercising that right and has so far granted clemency in one instance, in January 2014, for 5,900 inmates convicted of minor crimes. No high-profile figures were included.

Kim, the Saenuri chairman, said Wednesday morning that he has expectations for Park’s decision.

“It was a timely, appropriate choice for national unity and economic recovery,” he said. “I believe it will be a good opportunity to unite the country.”

Saenuri Rep. Kim Jae-won, the president’s special political affairs adviser, told JTBC on Tuesday that Park should issue pardons to as many people as possible. Arguing that domestic conglomerates could make easier decisions on investments when their top executives are freed, he urged that Park exercise her right to issue special pardons as a means to revive the economy.

“She should grant pardons to those businessmen for their entrepreneurial skills for our uncertain future,” Rep. Kim said. “It doesn’t mean that they should be pardoned just because they are rich and businessmen.”

However, it remains to be seen if Park will issue pardons to certain convicted businessmen.

Saenuri Rep. Chung Doo-un also reportedly reminded the president that it was just a few months ago that she had criticized the presidential pardons issued during the Roh Moo-hyun administration to corrupt businessmen.

On April 28, Park stressed that she has only given presidential pardons to a limited number of people whose livelihoods were at risk.

“National consensus is especially necessary for a special pardon to be given to a businessman,” she said at the time.

The main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy also noted her earlier position and said it would go against the people’s wishes for the president to pardon corporate owners.

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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