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"Here Money, Please Let Me Go Free!"

Posted January. 10, 2003 22:40,   


Lately, defendants are making more and more donations to non-profit organizations, asking for clemency of the court in rendering sentences to them, a phenomenon called "Indulgence Donation." In addition, it has also become general to submit petitions enumerating the "good works" that the defendant did in the past in order to move the court and avoid a severe sentencing.

Former chairman of Bosung Group Kim Hoh-jun, indicted on charges including the illegal accounting practice in last July, is now facing sentencing. To induce clemency of the court, Kim has filed various records in last November, which show various donations he has made such as the "10 million a year" donations to an elementary school in Gwongwon Province since 1997, and another donation in the amount of 90 million won (or approximately $75,000) to the special school for the deaf. On the record, the charity gifts of Kim amounts to 200 million won.

Defense lawyer Lee Jae-hwa representing Kim said, "My client did not want to make the records public. I insisted, however, on filing those records, since I determined that the records would move the court and induce its leniency."

Another defendant Mr. Chung, who was indicted for violation of the bad check statute, submitted a statement to the Seoul District Court with his sentencing coming up. In the statement, Chung promised to donate the amount of damage he caused by bouncing the check in 1997, since it was impossible to locate the person to whom the check had been originally made out.

In response, Chief Judge Park Dong-young, who presides the trial of Chung, said, "In Chung`s case, I finds his sincere intention to compensate the victim for the damage he caused. It is, however, impossible to find out the victim now. In this situation, he could not offer the court any mitigating circumstances. Thus, I am inclined to consider his donation as compensation for the victim."

Yet another defendant Bon Jae-bong (59) plans to donate a huge amount of money, and file the receipt with the court, Bon`s attorney says. Bon was arrested and charged with illegal banking operation and loaning last October.

Judge Part, however, said, "It is one thing to be unable to locate the victim or literally unable to make proper compensations without any fault on the part of the defendant. It is another to make donations just to cut down on the prison term. If the court condones this practice, it would be like giving a privilege to the rich. Thus, a careful approach is required in handling Indulgence Donations."

Jin-Kyun Kil leon@donga.com