President to list pardons, may include businessmen

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President to list pardons, may include businessmen

President Park Geun-hye will host a cabinet meeting on Friday to finalize the list of convicts who will be granted special pardons next week.

Presidential spokesman Jung Youn-kuk said Wednesday that the cabinet meeting will take place Friday morning. The Ministry of Justice held a meeting on Tuesday to create a list of the convicts that will receive the special pardons.

Park already said last month that she will pardon certain convicts in time for Liberation Day on Aug. 15. At the time, Park said “a hopeful turning point to overcome the [economic] crisis by uniting the nation is needed,” hinting that high-profile businessmen would be included on the pardon list.

After a list is approved by an evaluation committee headed by Justice Minister Kim Hyun-woong, it will be sent to the Blue House for Park’s review. It will be finalized at the cabinet meeting on Friday and then announced.

Sources at the ministry said most on the list will be inmates convicted of minor crimes. Politicians are expected to be included, while only a handful of businessmen will receive special pardons.

CJ Group Chairman Lee Jay-hyun is expected to be included on the list. Last month, he dropped an appeal for his tax evasion and embezzlement conviction, citing his poor health condition. The chairman was sentenced to two and a half years in prison and slapped with a 25.2 billion won ($23 million) fine in December.

As prosecutors did not file for appeals, either, Lee’s decision confirms his prison sentence, making him eligible for the presidential pardon.

Lee has suffered a number of health problems including the neurological Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease and side effects following a kidney transplant in 2013. The disease impairs the patient’s hands, arms, feet and legs as a result of peripheral nerve disease. He is currently being treated at Seoul National University Hospital in central Seoul.

The chairman was indicted in 2013 for allegedly evading 50 billion won in taxes and embezzling 70 billion won in company assets. He was found guilty in his first trial in 2014 and in an appeal in December.

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 series of pardons.

The first one came in January 2014 for 5,900 inmates convicted of minor crimes. No high-profile figures were included.

The second series was granted on Aug. 13, 2015. Businessmen were included then, but the number was kept to a maximum 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 continues as to whether Park will allow the reinstatement of Hanwha Group Chairman Kim Seung-youn and SK Group Vice Chairman Chey Jae-won. Kim completed his prison term but is still under probation.

Reinstatement would allow him to return to official decision-making duties. Chey was recently released on parole.

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

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