Pardon Me: South Korean President, Jailed for Corruption, to Walk Free

December 24, 2021 Topic: South Korea Region: Asia Blog Brand: Korea Watch Tags: South KoreaPark Geun-hyeCorruptionJailPardon

Pardon Me: South Korean President, Jailed for Corruption, to Walk Free

Park Geun-hye’s declining health led her to serve part of her sentence in a hospital rather than a prison.  

The South Korean Ministry of Justice has indicated that it will grant a pardon to former President Park Geun-hye, who is imprisoned on corruption charges.  

The pardon was announced on Friday. Park Beom-Kye, the country’s minister of justice, explained that it was intended as a show of good faith to unify the country in the face of external threats such as the coronavirus pandemic.  

South Korean president Moon Jae-in announced that the pardon was important to resolving lingering animosity in the country’s political system. 

“We should move into a new era by getting over the pains of the past,” Moon said in a press statement. 

“It’s time to boldly pull together all our strengths for the future rather than fighting against each other while being preoccupied with the past,” Moon said in the statement. 

His statement also cited Park’s declining health, which had led her to serve part of her sentence in a hospital rather than a prison.  

Park is sixty-nine years old and one of more than three thousand South Koreans to receive a pardon, which are commonly given out on New Year’s Day or national holidays. Park had been in prison since 2017, when she was removed from office and convicted of taking bribes from large South Korean chaebol mega-corporations, including manufacturing conglomerate Samsung. The corruption scandal she was implicated in led to months of street protests in South Korea and was instrumental in Moon’s election to the presidency in 2017. 

Prior to her pardon, Park was four years into a twenty-year prison sentence for bribery and abuse of power. She had always denied the charges, claiming she had never accepted the bribes and was set up by other officials. 

Park is South Korea’s first female president. She is the daughter of controversial former President Park Chung-hee, who oversaw both rapid economic growth and flagrant human rights abuses as the country’s de facto dictator from 1961 until his assassination in 1979.  

South Korea’s next election is scheduled to take place in March 2022. Moon, who is limited to a single term in office by the South Korean constitution, has supported liberal candidate Lee Jae-myung, the leader of his Democratic Party, against conservative candidate Yoon Suk-yeol, who leads the People Power Party. The two remain tied in most polls, with two other candidates from smaller parties acting as potential spoilers. 

Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest. 

Image: Reuters