South Korea to pardon former president for corruption offenses

SEOUL (HPD) — The South Korean government of President Yoon Suk Yeol said Tuesday it will grant a special pardon to former President Lee Myung-bak, who was sentenced to 17 years in prison for corruption offences.

The Ministry of Justice said in a statement that Lee is among the 1,373 convicts who will be pardoned on Wednesday. He indicated that he has decided to include some politicians, such as Lee, as part of efforts to promote national unity.

Lee, 81, was temporarily released from prison in June due to ill health.

The CEO-turned-conservative hero had been convicted of taking bribes from big companies, including Samsung, embezzling funds from a company he owned and other corruption-related crimes committed before and during his 2008-2013 presidency.

He was the first South Korean president with a business background and once symbolized the country’s economic rise. He began his business career in a low-level position in the construction arm of Hyundai Group in the mid-1960s, before rising to CEO of 10 companies under Hyundai Group, leading the group’s rapid rise at a time when South Korea’s economy grew explosively from the rubble of the 1950-53 Korean War.

Lee’s corruption case erupted after his successor and fellow conservative Park Geun-hye was ousted and sent to jail for another corruption scandal committed from 2016 to 2017. The successive scandals deeply damaged conservatives in South Korea and deepened the national division.

Park, who was serving a long prison term, was pardoned in December 2021, when South Korea was ruled by Yoon’s liberal predecessor, Moon Jae-in.

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