President Park Geun-hye Pardons SK Group Chairman

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo

To commemorate the 70th anniversary of Korea’s independence from Japanese colonial rule, South Korea’s President Park has pardoned 6,527 people, including the chairman of SK Group, the country’s third-largest conglomerate.

“I decided to grant special pardons in order to help forge national reconciliation and revitalize the economy as well as to boost people’s spirits,” Park said in a Cabinet meeting, according to Yonhap News Agency.

South Korea’s justice ministry said in a statement that Park pardoned 14 business people based on their contributions to national economy, reported the Associated Press.

In January 2013, SK Group’s Chey Tae-won was sentenced to four years in prison after being found guilty of embezzling 49.7 billion won ($45.6 million USD) from his company’s mobile phone and IT subsidiaries. Chey continued his role as chairman from behind bars.

Although this is the first time that Park has ever pardoned the head of a chaebol, or family-controlled conglomerates, her decision marks Chey’s second pardon. In 2008, Chey was pardoned by former President Lee Myung-bak for a $1.2 billion accounting fraud.

After the MERS outbreak, South Korea’s tourism industry was hit hard and the country’s already faltering economy suffered even more setbacks. Despite Park’s attempts to nurture startups as an engine of growth, South Korea still heavily relies on its sprawling chaebols. Samsung alone accounted for roughly 20 percent of the country’s GDP in 2012.

It’s most likely that Park’s decision to pardon Chey will renew debate about government’s leniency toward chaebols. Last month, Lotte became embroiled in a succession feud, which reignited public criticism of chaebol’s economic dominance.

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Featured image via Yonhap

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