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Roh Abusing Presidential Pardon Power

Posted January. 01, 2008 03:24,   


The government granted special pardons to 75 convicted public officials, politicians, and business leaders, including former chiefs of the National Intelligence Service Im Dong-won and Shin Geon, and Daewoo Group founder Kim Woo-choong yesterday. The decision was made at a cabinet meeting presided over by Prime Minister Han Deok-soo.

Though Cheong Wa Dae said, “It took into consideration their previous contributions to the nation’s development, the sentences they had served, and the amount of fines they paid in granting them special amnesty,” it won’t avoid the criticism that they are part of President Roh’s plan to save his close aides before his five-year term ends in February.

Many of those pardoned and reinstated are confidants to former president Kim Dae Jung, including Park Jie-won, former chief of staff for former president, Han Hwa-gap, former chairman of the minor Democratic Party, Yoo Jong-geun, former governor of North Jeolla Province, Sohn Yeong-rae, former chief of the National Tax Office, Shin Seung-nam, former prosecutor general, and Kim Jin, former president of the Korea National Housing Cooperation. In particular, Park and Han draw special attention because they are expected to play a key role in the upcoming general elections in uniting separate ruling camps.

In addition, pardons for two former chiefs of the National Intelligence Service who are close to former president Kim will stir controversy over Roh’s abuse of the amnesty rights since the grant came four days after their jail sentences were concluded. They appealed to the Supreme Court at around 4 p.m., last Thursday, the last day they were allowed to appeal, but withdrew their appeals at 6 p.m., and 7:30 p.m. the same day.

As Grand National Party floor leader Ahn Sang-su pointed out, “They were pardoned before the ink on the verdict dried.” But presidential spokesman Cheon Ho-seon said, “If conditions are met at the time of amnesty decision making, amnesty is possible.”

Though the decision on who would be included in a special clemency was made by President Roh, some were dropped from the list due to opposition from the Ministry of Justice.

Cheong Wa Dae considered freeing Kim Dae-eop, the key figure who raised suspicions over the draft dodging of Lee Jeong-yeon, the son of former GNP head Lee Hoi-chang, but the Justice Ministry foiled the consideration.

The government also contemplated pardoning Roh`s high school alumnus and financier Mun Byeong-wook, chairman of the scandal-hit Sun and Moon group, but he was also excluded at the final moment because he is now under investigation into allegations of embezzling some 12 billion won.

Those who chose conscientious objections and refused military service on religious grounds were on the list initially, but the government excluded them because of the sheer number of objectors, reaching 680, and because it may trigger disputes over fairness at a time when the National Assembly is pushing for an alternative draft law.

Though former Daewoo Chairman Kim Woo-choong was pardoned and his civil rights were reinstated, he is still obliged to pay fines worth 18 trillion won ordered by the court. “Like former presidents Jeon Du-hwan and Roh Tae-woo, the former Daewoo chairman will forfeit his assets whenever they are found,” said a Justice Ministry official.

However, the GNP has strongly condemned the decision by calling it a “destruction of rule of law.” GNP spokesman Na Gyeong-won denounced the grant, saying, “The present government has continued abusing its right to clemency until the last moment. The government’s consideration of giving a grant to Kim Dae-eop means that it has admitted that Roh was elected president due to propaganda politics.”

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