South Korean pres­i­dent par­dons jailed ty­coon

The China Post - - LIFE GUIDE POST -

South Korean Pres­i­dent Park Ge­un­hye handed down a full par­don Thurs­day to the head of the coun­try’s third-largest con­glom­er­ate who was serv­ing his sec­ond jail term for multi-mil­lion dol­lar fraud.

SK Group chair­man Chey Tae-won was among 6,500 par­dons an­nounced by Park to mark the 70th an­niver­sary on Satur­day of the end of Ja­panese colo­nial rule over Korea.

The in­clu­sion of Chey in the list sparked crit­i­cism of the pres­i­dent, who came to power promis­ing to re­form South Korea’s all-pow­er­ful, fam­ily run con­glom­er­ates, or “chae­bols,” whose chief ex­ec­u­tives have of­ten strayed onto the wrong side of the law.

Speak­ing at a cab­i­net meet­ing, Park said her choice had been mo­ti­vated by a need to “re­vi­tal­ize the econ­omy.”

Chae­bols dom­i­nate the na­tional econ- omy and the free­ing of im­pris­oned top ex­ec­u­tives to help stim­u­late growth has been a com­mon theme of pres­i­den­tial amnesties over the years.

It was un­der­lined this time around by Jus­tice Min­is­ter Kim Hyun-woong, who told re­porters that re­leas­ing con­victed busi­ness lead­ers gave them “the chance to con­trib­ute to the coun­try’s econ­omy again.”

Aside from Chey, a dozen other busi­ness­men were freed by Park in what was her sec­ond amnesty list since tak­ing of­fice in 2013.

The main op­po­si­tion party, New Pol­i­tics Al­liance for Democ­racy, de­nounced Chey’s re­lease, say­ing it “runs counter to the elec­tion prom­ise” Park made to get tough with chae­bol own­ers.

The par­don will only “con­fuse peo­ple’s ideas about fair­ness,” a party spokes­woman said.

The pro-busi­ness Fed­er­a­tion of Korean In­dus­tries, on the other hand, wel­comed Park’s “brave de­ci­sion” say­ing it would help unite the busi­ness com­mu­nity be­hind the gov­ern­ment’s eco­nomic poli­cies.

Chey, 54, has served 31 months out of his 48-month prison sen­tence for em­bez­zling 46.5 bil­lion won (US$43.6 mil­lion) from two SK Group af­fil­i­ates and fun­nel­ing the funds into per­sonal in­vest­ments in stock fu­tures and op­tions in 2008.

It was not his first con­vic­tion. In 2003, Chey was sen­tenced to three years in prison for his role in a US$1.3 bil­lion ac­count­ing fraud.

On that oc­ca­sion, he was re­leased af­ter just seven months and, in 2008, granted a full pres­i­den­tial par­don, wip­ing his record clean.

An opin­ion poll by Korea Gal­lop last month showed 54 per­cent of Kore­ans were op­posed to giv­ing par­dons to chae­bol lead­ers.

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