Time to pardon our corporate leaders

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Time to pardon our corporate leaders

During a parliamentary questioning session on Wednesday, Prime Minister Han Duck-soo said he would suggest President Yoon Suk-yeol grant special pardons for business tycoons. When asked if he was willing to propose a presidential grant on restitution for Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong and Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin, Han said he would.

The presidential office is currently deliberating President Yoon’s first exercise of a presidential pardon around the August 15 Liberation Day. Last month, Yoon indicated a special pardon for former President Lee Myung-bak who had been sentenced to 17 years in jail for bribes and embezzlement. Prime Minister Han’s comment hints at the possibility of corporate leaders receiving presidential pardons around that time.

Pardoning business leaders has been repeatedly urged by the business and religious communities. The five business organizations, including the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry, have been pleading for granting special pardons for Lee and Shin as well as other businessmen since the last administration under President Moon Jae-in. During a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs Choo Kyung-ho, who also serves as finance minister, Sohn Kyung-shik, chairman of the Korea Enterprises Federation, requested for the reinstatement of corporate leaders like Lee and Shin, who are restricted in overseas business trips, so that they can play a more active role on the global market without restrictions.

Past presidents have all pardoned businessmen to help the economy. At the moment, our economy is in perils. The dynamics that had propelled past growth of Korea Inc. are under a seismic change, demanding a mustering of all possible national resources to combat the tough challenges at home and abroad. Both the government and enterprises must try to diversify our export and import markets and secure a stable supply of raw materials to help sustain the trade-reliant Korean economy. Chaining business leaders during such critical times is not good for the country.

The nation must become one at hard times. Pardons can help to unite the people. Justice Minister Han Dong-hoon has refused to comment on special pardons for them, as it pertains to the realm of presidential authority. But the mood from the presidential office and the justice ministry indicates that the government is considering a broad special pardon. During the campaign, Yoon mentioned that a presidential pardon will be necessary for national unity. Corporate magnates and former president Lee Myung-bak — who is in poor health after lengthy imprisonment — should be counted in Yoon’s first presidential pardon in August.
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