The Korea Herald


Will Lee Myung-bak be pardoned?

President-elect expected to request Lee’s pardon

By Shin Ji-hye

Published : March 14, 2022 - 15:27

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President Moon Jae-in (left) and President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol (Yonhap) President Moon Jae-in (left) and President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol (Yonhap)
Many are now watching to see whether former President Lee Myung-bak will be granted a special pardon before the end of the Moon Jae-in administration, as President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol is expected to demand Lee’s pardon.

Moon and Yoon are expected to meet at Cheong Wa Dae early next week, and the issue of special amnesty for politicians, including Lee, is likely to be discussed at the meeting.

Yoon is in favor of pardoning Lee, who was president from 2008-2013. Earlier, he said Lee should be released quickly, referring to him as an “old” man who was once elected president with the support of many people and who had carried out a major role in Korea’s history. Lee turned 80 in December.

“When thinking about national unity, (Lee’s pardon) is the right (move) for future-oriented politics,” Yoon previously said.

Cheong Wa Dae, however, has been negative on the notion.

When former President Park Geun-hye was pardoned last year, the presidential office excluded Lee on the grounds that he had not served a sufficient portion of his term, as well as low public support for the move.

Moon should, however, consider various factors. There may be a political burden for Moon if he ends his term without pardoning the former president, according to an official of the ruling party.

With President-elect Yoon and President Moon expected to meet soon, Kim Ki-hyun, floor leader of the People Power Party, called for the pardoning of both former President Lee Myung-bak and Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong.

Kim said on his Facebook page on Monday, “The public’s vote for Yoon Suk-yeol is to stop dividing the camps and open a new era of harmony and prosperity through national integration.”

He said it is time to conclude the issue of amnesty and reinstatement for former President Lee and Samsung Vice Chairman Lee.

If Moon accepts Yoon’s request, there is a possibility that he will grant a pardon to Lee on the Buddha’s Birthday holiday, which falls on May 9 this year, a day before the end of his term.

The pardon for Lee could take place in a similar way as done for former Presidents Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo, which also took place during a regime change, industry watchers said.

On Dec. 20, 1997, two days after the 15th presidential election, then President-elect Kim Dae-jung met with then-President Kim Young-sam, proposing amnesty for the two former presidents. President Kim later accepted the proposal.

This time, according to the amnesty law amended in 2007, the amnesty review committee must go through a deliberation and resolution process before a decision is made by the president. However, since four out of nine judges on the review committee belong to the Ministry of Justice and the prosecution, a pardon will eventually be decided according to President Moon’s will.

Apart from Lee’s pardon, former Finance Minister Choi Kyung-hwan, who is imprisoned for accepting a bribe from the National Intelligence Service during the Park Geun-hye administration, will be released on parole Thursday. Samsung senior executives Choi Ji-sung and Jang Choong-ki, who are imprisoned for being involved in a state affairs manipulation case, will also be released on parole the same day.

Choi was arrested and indicted in January 2018 on charges of receiving 100 million won ($80,600) in special expenses from the NIS in 2014 while serving as the minister. In July 2019, the Supreme Court confirmed a five-year prison term for the former minister. Choi Ji-sung and Jang Choong-ki were sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison last year for bribing former President Park and her close friend Choi Seo-won, then known as Choi Soon-sil.