Blue House set to decide presidential pardon list

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Blue House set to decide presidential pardon list

The Blue House on Thursday is expected to finalize its decision on whether to give high-profile businessmen presidential pardons.

Key members from the ruling Saenuri Party said Wednesday that President Park Geun-hye will convene an extraordinary cabinet meeting on Aug. 13, to consider the proposal to grant clemency to Korea’s troubled corporate executives in an effort to boost the depressed economy ahead of the 70th anniversary of Korea’s Liberation Day on Aug. 15.

The decision will be followed by a three-day weekend, Aug. 14 to 16, and the Korea Grand Sale, a promotional strategy by the city government to attract more tourists to the country following the nationwide outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).

The grand sale is set to run until October.

“The schedule hasn’t been fixed yet, but I’ve heard this is where we are heading,” Blue House spokesman Min Kyung-wook said Thursday.

The government’s plan to revitalize the country’s depressed domestic market is centered upon possible presidential pardons for imprisoned businessmen.

Since taking office in 2013, President Park has never offered pardons to conglomerate heads, and some critics of the move have expressed concern that granting clemency to some of the nation’s most influential tycoons may increase negative public sentiment toward the government.

In an apparent bid to emphasize that the pardons are linked with Liberation Day and the administration’s push to boost the economy, Park will make her decision at the extraordinary cabinet meeting on Aug. 13 as opposed to the regular meeting on Aug. 11.

Aug. 14 has been designated as a holiday.

According to government officials, the list of businessmen to be pardoned is expected to include SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won and Vice-Chairman Chey Jae-won. The chairman has served two years and seven months of a four-year term, while the vice-chairman has served two years and four months of a three and a half year prison sentence.

Both men meet the requirements for a presidential pardon in that they have served at least a third of their sentence.

“Owning family members of LIG Group are expected to be pardoned as well,” a government official added.

Former LIG Nex1 Vice-Chairman Koo Bon-sang and former LIG E&C Vice-Chairman Koo Bon-yeop - both the sons of LIG Group Chairman Koo Cha-won - remain in prison.

“Hanwha Group Chairman Kim Seung-yeon, who was sentenced to three years in prison with a five-year suspension, is also known to be included,” the source said.

The Blue House, however, did not provide specific information on the list of businessmen to receive pardons, saying that it could not confirm until clemency had been given.

It is also a possibility that the tycoons on the list will be released immediately after the pardons are concluded at the extraordinary cabinet meeting on Aug. 13.

“Since the government’s main focus is to stimulate the domestic market and because Aug. 14 has been designated as a holiday, it might choose to emphasize its purpose by releasing the businessmen right away,” said a key member of the ruling party. “The presidential pardons will demonstrate the government’s intention to restart the economy.

This time, the Blue House is not expected to grant pardons to politicians.

“President Park will not grant pardons that go against her principles,” a Saenuri member said, “and granting pardons to politicians could stir up questions over fairness.”

BY KIM BONG-MOON AND NAMGUNG WOOK [kim.bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]

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