Politics Talk of presidential pardons for tycoons builds

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Talk of presidential pardons for tycoons builds
Minister of Economy and Finance Choo Kyung-ho speaks at a parliamentary finance committee meeting at the National Assembly in western Seoul on Monday. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]
Minister of Economy and Finance Choo Kyung-ho speaks at a parliamentary finance committee meeting at the National Assembly in western Seoul on Monday. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]
Granting special pardons to business leaders would help the economy, according to the finance minister.
Appearing at a parliamentary finance committee meeting on Monday, Minister of Economy and Finance Choo Kyung-ho was asked by Democratic Party (DP) Rep. Lee Su-jin: "Do you think pardons for corporate leaders will have a positive effect on corporate investment and economic revitalization?" 
Choo replied: "I think it would definitely be helpful, regardless of political interpretation."
It is a tradition for presidents to grant special pardons to political and business figures on Liberation Day, Aug. 15.  
President Yoon Suk-yeol is under some pressure to pardon Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong and Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin this Aug. 15.  
Samsung's Lee was sentenced to 30 months in jail for bribing former President Park Geun-hye, but was released from prison on parole last August. Lotte's Shin was also convicted of bribing Park and given a jail sentence of 30 months suspended for four years.  
"Granting pardons is the president's inherent power, and it is not appropriate for me to start discussing the standards," Choo told the lawmakers.
But he continued, "After a certain period of time, one way is to actively review the pardon of businesspeople if the people come together for national unity or economic recovery."
He added that there "should be a premise of public consensus" for special pardons.  
In a parliamentary hearing last week, Prime Minister Han Duck-soo said he would propose to Yoon pardons for business executives such as Samsung's Lee and Lotte's Shin.  
The Justice Ministry is expected to hold a meeting of a review committee as early as next week to decide who will be recommended for pardons, according to legal and business sources. Once the committee finalizes its list, Justice Minister Han Dong-hoon will brief the president, who makes the final decision. The list of people granted pardons is expected to be announced later in a Cabinet meeting.  
Major business organizations, including the Korea Enterprises Federation and Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry have urged pardons for Lee and Shin.
In June, Sohn Kyung-shik, chairman of the Korea Enterprises Federation, asked for a pardon of corporate leaders during a meeting with Choo.  
Last week, the Korean Council of Religious Leaders, a group of seven major religious leaders, sent a petition to Yoon urging special pardons for the businessmen.  
According to a recent poll, more than 77 percent of respondents supported the idea of pardoning Samsung's Lee.  
The survey released last Thursday was jointly conducted by pollsters Embrain Public, Kstat Research, Korea Research and Hankook Research on 1,006 people 18 and older nationwide between July 25 and 27.  
Only 19 percent responded they were against pardoning Lee, while four percent replied they didn't know or didn't respond.  
According to the poll, 49 percent of respondents supported a pardon for Lotte's Shin, while 38 percent opposed and 13 percent said they didn't know or didn't respond.  
Political figures who may be considered for special pardons for Liberation Day could include former President Lee Myung-bak and former South Gyeongsang Gov. Kim Kyoung-soo.  
Lee, who was president from 2008 to 2013, has been serving a 17-year sentence for embezzlement and bribery since 2018. In late June, Suwon prosecutors suspended Lee's prison sentence for three months over health concerns.
Kim, an ally of former President Moon Jae-in, was sentenced to two years in prison for conspiring to manipulate online opinion ahead of the 2017 presidential election.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]
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