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President’s Amnesty Plans Criticized as Political Scam

Posted January. 18, 2004 22:59,   


In a controversial move, the presidential office is mulling freeing officials of the former government awaiting trial in prison for their roles in the secret money transfer to North Korea for the first-ever North-South summit in 2000, in an amnesty to mark the first anniversary of the Roh Moo Hyun government.

The two opposition parties, the Grand National Party (GNP) and the Millennium Democratic Party (MDP), mounted strong opposition to the move, referring to it as a scheme to turn around public opinion in the southwestern region – where Roh’s predecessor Kim Dae Jung was from – ahead of the April National Assembly elections. Legal insiders and experts said it wouldn’t sit well with the public sentiment because to pardon those who had been investigated by a special prosecutor and who were found guilty just several months ago in appeals court.

“When he approved a special prosecutor for probes into the money-for-the summit scandal, he weighed the disclosure of facts against the criminal charges against those implicated in it,” said a presidential aide on January 18. “He is considering pardons as a practical measure to completely end the issue.”

The officials who are said to be under consideration for pardons include: Lim Dong-won, former chief of National Intelligence Service, Lee Ki-ho, former presidential economic adviser, Kim Yoon-kyu, president of Hyundai Asan Corp, and Lee Keun-young, former head of the Financial Supervisory Board.

Pardons for former aide Lee is possible because he did not appeal after receiving a suspended sentence in local court. Ruling for the remaining four is still pending in the Supreme Court. Their pardons will be possible only if they retracted their appeals.

Park Jie-won, former presidential chief of staff, is unlikely to be included in the amnesty, because his appeals proceedings is still in progress after he was sentenced to a prison terms on separate 15 billion won bribery charges, some of which allegedly are related to his involvement in the scandal. It is difficult to pardon parts of the charges brought against him while further court ruling is still pending.

“It was revealed that the government is flirting with southwestern voters to wither away the MDP and turn the April elections into a two-way race between the GNP and the Uri Party,” GNP spokesman Park Jin said. “It is a scam to tear down the law and order of the country by pardoning those whose court sentencing is still pending.”

“The special amnesty is a politically motivated stratagem, three months ahead of the elections as it was the presidential office that endorsed the special prosecutor scheme the GNP pushed through at the National Assembly, that faulted the former president Kim Dae Jung and that mangled his sunshine policy of rapprochement toward North Korea,” Jang Jeon-hyong, the chief assistant spokesman of the MDP, in a statement.

Jeong-Hun Kim Yeon-Wook Jung jnghn@donga.com jyw11@donga.com