Published : 2013-01-28 19:41
Updated : 2013-01-28 19:41
Defying public outcry, President Lee Myung-bak is expected to announce a special pardon soon, possibly Tuesday. The Ministry of Justice has already submitted a presidential clemency proposal to Lee.
The planned pardon has triggered public outcry as it reportedly includes some of Lee’s friends and aides who have been convicted of corruption.
For this reason, President-elect Park Geun-hye’s transition team has voiced opposition to the amnesty plan. Yoon Chang-jung, spokesman of the team, said on Saturday that the practice of issuing a special pardon toward the close of a president’s term should come to an end.
In particular, Yoon said, executive clemency for those implicated in corruption and other irregularities should not be carried out because it would anger the public.
The transition team’s view was echoed by both the ruling Saenuri Party and the main opposition Democratic United Party. They warned that Lee’s move to free his confidants, who were prosecuted for abusing power and peddling influence, would spark public outrage.
Yet the Blue House has rebutted this, noting that the presidential right to issue special pardons is set out in the Constitution. It said the planned amnesty would be carried out in strict compliance with the law and principles.
It is true that the Constitution gives the president the prerogative to grant special pardons. Yet this right should be used prudently and in a way that contributes to social integration. It should not be abused, because it basically undermines the rule of law.
Lee got it right when he pledged years ago that he would not exercise leniency during his term for corrupt people from the highest echelons of society.
But he seems to have forgotten his own pledge. According to reports, the pardon list includes Choi See-joong and Chun Shin-il, both Lee’s close friends who were jailed for taking bribes.
They refrained from filing an appeal for a sentence reduction, meaning they would still qualify for a pardon. Under the law, pardons are only granted to those whose sentences have been finalized.
The list reportedly also includes Kim Hee-jung, Lee’s longtime aide and former presidential secretary for personal affairs, and Kim Jae-hong, former chairman of the KT&G Welfare Foundation and a cousin of first lady Kim Yoon-ok.
Public anger would have boiled over had Lee’s elder brother, former Saenuri Party lawmaker Lee Sang-deuk, been also included. The ex-lawmaker has excluded himself by appealing the verdict given at his first trial a few days ago.
A special pardon would be justified if it is limited to people whose release would contribute to national reconciliation and social justice. Lee should use his right of presidential pardon in a justifiable way.