The transition committee of President-elect Park Geun-hye on Saturday voiced opposition to the long-running practice of presidential pardons in what appeared to be a move to stop outgoing President Lee Myung-bak from getting his close confidants convicted of corruption out of jail.
"There is a need to break the chain of the practice of issuing special pardons at the end of (a president's) term," committee spokesman Yoon Chang-jung told a news briefing. "In particular, pardons for those implicated in corruption and other irregularities will anger the public, and it is hoped that such pardons will not be carried out."
The remarks come amid media reports that Lee is considering issuing a special pardon around Lunar New Year's Day, which falls on Feb. 10 this year, about two weeks before he leaves office.
South Korean presidents have issued pardons to commemorate important holidays, such as Liberation Day, marking Korea's independence from Japan's colonial rule, or traditional holidays like Lunar New Year's Day. Critics say the practice hurts the rule of law.
Those convicted of small-scale economic crimes are expected to make up the majority of those who would benefit from the possible pardon. But the public focus is on whether the president's close confidants, such as Choi See-joong and Chun Shin-il, would benefit from the measure as well.
Both Choi and Chun, who were convicted of bribery charges last year, gave up on appealing their prison sentences to higher courts last month in a move seen as them getting ready for a special pardon because only those whose sentences are finalized can be eligible for a pardon.