Moon Jae-in probably won't pardon Lee Myung-bak, Lee Jae-yong
There has been speculation that Moon might pardon political or business figures such as former President Lee Myung-bak, former South Gyeongsang Gov. Kim Kyoung-soo, Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong or Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin.
Blue House officials said that Moon, after much deliberation, decided against granting pardons for Buddha's Birthday, May 8, a day before the end of his five-year term.
A high-ranking Blue House official said Monday, "To make a decision to grant a pardon, the Ministry of Justice must hold a pardon review committee and vote in advance. Logistically, it will not be easy to grant a special pardon before the end of the term."
A screening process was not conducted ahead of Moon's last Cabinet meeting Tuesday, meaning that technically speaking, special pardons for Buddha's Birthday is not possible.
Pardons for figures like former President Lee and former Gov. Kim could have been controversial.
Lee, 80, who was president from 2008 to 2013, has been serving a 17-year sentence for embezzlement and bribery since 2018.
Kim, an ally of Moon, was sentenced to two years in prison for conspiring to manipulate online opinion ahead of the 2017 presidential election.
Other possible recipients included former Justice Minister Cho Kuk's wife, Chung Kyung-sim, a professor at Dongyang University, who was convicted of fraud for her role in helping her daughter get admitted to medical school and is serving four years in jail; and Lee Seok-ki, a former left-wing lawmaker of the now-disbanded minor opposition Unified Progressive Party, convicted of plotting a rebellion to overthrow the South Korean government in case of a war with North Korea
At the end of December, Moon granted a special pardon to former President Park Geun-hye taking into consideration her health condition.
In his final press conference on April 25, Moon avoided giving a concrete answer when asked about special pardons for former President Lee or former Gov. Kim.
"It is true that there have been requests for special pardons from all walks of life," Moon told Blue House reporters. "Since special pardons can conflict with judicial justice, I believe that amnesty should be exercised only in such a way that it complements judicial justice."
He added that it is "ultimately up to the people to decide whether special pardons for such people can be complementary to judicial justice," saying that there should be "public consensus" to grant such amnesty.
In response to a petition for a pardon for Lee released by the Blue House last Friday, Moon said in a statement, "There are many opinions in favor of a pardon for the sake of national unity."
In a public opinion poll released by the Korea Society Opinion Institute (KSOI) Monday, 51.7 percent of respondents were against pardoning Lee, while 40.4 percent were in support.
Likewise, 56.9 percent of respondents opposed a pardon for Kim in the poll conducted on 1,012 adults on April 29 and 30, while just 28.8 percent were in favor.
There were 57.2 percent against a pardon for Chung and 30.5 percent in favor.
However, 68.8 percent were in favor of a pardon for Samsung's Lee Jae-yong in the KSOI poll and 23.5 percent against.
BY SARAH KIM [firstname.lastname@example.org]