Moon passes over politicians, pardons activists

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Moon passes over politicians, pardons activists

President Moon Jae-in issued pardons on Tuesday to 4,378 people, including 107 activists who were mostly convicted of protesting his controversial predecessors, to mark the 100th anniversary of the March 1 Independence Movement.

The Ministry of Justice said the pardons will take effect as of tomorrow. No pardons were given to politicians, business tycoons, civil servants or people convicted of either corruption or felonies.

This was the second time Moon used his presidential power to issue pardons since taking office in May 2017. His first presidential pardon was issued in December 2017.

Justice Minister Park Sang-ki made an announcement after the cabinet approved the list of 4,378 convicts to be pardoned. Among them are 107 people convicted of holding illegal demonstrations against the polices of the past conservative Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye administrations and participating in a 77-day strike at Ssangyong Motor in 2009 to protest the automaker’s massive layoffs.

“We selected seven major conflicts of our society and pardoned those involved in the cases for the sake of social unity,” Minister Park said.

Of the 107 activists, 13 were convicted of holding demonstrations against the Lee government’s decision to resume imports of U.S. beef. Moon also pardoned 11 people who were convicted of participating in illegal protests to condemn the Park administration’s poor handling of the Sewol ferry’s sinking in 2014 and 22 convicted of holding illegal rallies to denounce a comfort women deal with Japan signed during her presidency.

The ministry said Moon also pardoned 13 people convicted of holding illegal rallies over the Park government’s decision to allow the U.S. deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) antimissile system. Participants in rallies to both support and oppose the deployment were pardoned.

Seven people convicted of holding illegal strikes at Ssangyong Motor in 2009 also received special pardons.

Moon also issued special pardons to 19 people who were convicted of holding illegal rallies against a government plan to build a naval base in Jeju. The plan was initiated by the Roh Moo-hyun administration in 2007, when Moon was serving as the presidential chief of staff. After the plan faced fierce protests from Jeju residents, Moon repeatedly expressed regret that the government failed to listen to their opinions at the initial stage.

During his presidential campaign, Moon promised to drop the lawsuit against the protesters and pardon all convicts. In 2017, the Defense Ministry dropped an indemnity suit seeking nearly 3.5 billion won ($3.2 million) in compensation from Jeju residents and activists for the delayed construction. Last year, Moon also made a public promise that the protesters will be pardoned once their convictions are finalized.

Moon also granted special pardons to five people who were convicted of protesting the Lee government’s plan to build high-voltage transmission towers in Miryang, South Gyeongsang. The Supreme Court finalized their convictions on Feb. 18, and they were pardoned only 10 days after the verdict.

The ministry said any protester found guilty of using violence during a rally was excluded from the pardon list.

No politician received presidential pardons this year, despite speculations that some, including former lawmaker of the dismantled Unified Progressive Party Lee Seok-ki, would be pardoned. When Moon issued his first presidential pardon in 2017, Chung Bong-ju, a former Democratic Party lawmaker, was pardoned. Chung served jail time for defaming former President Lee.

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