Park announces pardons to mark Liberation Day

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Park announces pardons to mark Liberation Day

President Park Geun-hye said on Monday that she will issue special pardons of certain convicts next month, in time for Liberation Day.

“Our economy is facing many difficulties both internally and externally and the lives of the people are suffered under the weight of these issues,” Park said during a meeting with her senior secretaries at the Blue House. “A hopeful turning point to overcome the crisis by uniting the nation is needed right now.”

Park also said she decided to issue the pardon to mark the 71st anniversary of Liberation Day on Aug. 15, commemorating Korea’s independence from Japanese colonial rule. “I want to unite the people and bring their many talents together in order to allow them the opportunity of a comeback,” she said.

Park appeared to have accepted the ruling party’s request to exercise her presidential prerogative to issue special pardons. During the presidential luncheon with Saenuri Party lawmakers on Friday, Rep. Chung Jin-suk, the floor leader, asked Park to issue the special pardon.

Chung appealed to Park that it would be best for her to grant special pardons on a large scale and to a wide selection of people in order to promote a harmonious and reconciliatory mood nationwide, since the country is feeling fatigue from the prolonged economic and security crises.

Park responded that it was a good idea.

While it is customary for Korea’s presidents to issue special pardons on major national holidays, Park has refrained from exercising that right and has so far granted only two pardons. The first one came in January 2014 for 5,900 inmates convicted of minor crimes. No high-profile figures were included.

On Aug. 13, 2015, Park granted presidential pardons to 6,422 criminals. Businessmen were included then, but the number was kept to a minimum of 14. Among chaebol heads, only SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won, who served two years and seven months of a four-year prison term for embezzlement and corporate malpractices, was included. No politician was granted a special pardon.

Speculation grew Monday that Park will issue pardons to more convicted businessmen, in line with her aim for economic recovery. Although she made a presidential pledge not to grant pardons to corrupt tycoons, the fact that she mentioned “economic crisis” as one of the reasons behind the upcoming pardon has triggered speculation that she may show leniency to a large number of businessmen.

Chung, who made the proposal last week, also urged Park to grant pardons to a considerable number of people with various occupations, further indicating a push to release businessmen.

Of the convicted tycoons, hopes grew that Hanwha Group Chairman Kim Seung-youn would be reinstated. Kim completed his prison term but is still under probation and reinstatement would allow him to return to official decision-making duties.

Speculation is also high that Chey Jae-won, senior vice chairman of SK Group, and former LIG Next1 vice chairman Koo Bon-sang will receive special pardons, as they have almost completed their prison terms.

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

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