Pay it forward

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Pay it forward

CJ Group Chairman Lee Jay-hyun and 13 other businessmen were included in the special pardon of 4,870 people by President Park Geun-hye commemorating the 71st anniversary of the Aug. 15 Liberation Day. Another 1.42 million who had their driving licenses suspended for traffic offenses were pardoned.

The pardon was scaled down from 2.9 million during the Lunar New Year in 2014 and 2.2 million for last year’s Liberation Day.

The government said the pardons were kept to a minimum to respect the president’s campaign promise not to be too broad in awarding special pardons, especially for corrupt businessmen.

The only controversy was over Lee, who was sentenced to two and a half years and fined 25.2 billion won ($23 million) in 2013 for embezzlement and breach of duty.

Lee gave up his appeal to the Supreme Court ahead of the pardon. Lee, who suffers from hereditary motor and sensory neuropathies and the rare Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, spent most of the time in the hospital since he was detained.

The opposition and civic groups complained that it was against the principle of justice to pardon Lee, who has only served four months in prison, on the pretext of helping the economy.

The Justice Ministry said Lee was acquitted on humanitarian grounds as his health was at risk.

Lee will have to find some way to contribute to society in order to silence the controversy around him. He was given another chance so that he could “play a part in reviving the economy.” Park said.

The Korean economy is in trouble waters on both the domestic and external fronts with China retaliating for South Korea’s decision to deploy a U.S. anti-missile system. That could affect trade to one of our most important markets. We also have labor challenges and a high level of youth unemployment.

The people who have been granted special pardon under such difficult conditions must find a way to repay society for their privileges.

JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 13, page 26
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