South Korea’s moon gracie Park disgraced amid close presidential race

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SEOUL, December 24 (Reuters) – South Korean President Moon Jae-in pardoned former President Park Geun-hye, who was in prison after being convicted of corruption, the Justice Ministry said on Friday. in the middle of a tight presidential race.

Park, 69, became South Korea’s first democratically elected leader to be removed from office when the Constitutional Court upheld a 2017 parliament vote to impeach her over a scandal that also drove the heads of two conglomerates, including Samsung, in prison.

She was overthrown after being convicted of colluding with a friend to receive tens of billions of won from large conglomerates, mainly to fund her friend’s family and nonprofit foundations.

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In January, South Korea’s highest court upheld a 20-year prison sentence for Park on the bribery charges that finalized his downfall, thus ending the legal process.

Park’s attorney, Yoo Yeong-ha, said Park apologized for worrying the public and thanked Moon for making a difficult decision.

Moon’s office said Park’s forgiveness was aimed at “overcoming the unhappy history of the past, promoting people’s unity and joining hands for the future.”

“I hope that this will offer a chance to go beyond the differences of thought and the advantages and disadvantages, and will open a new era of integration and unity,” said his spokesperson, quoting his spokesperson. word.

Moon had previously pledged not to pardon those found guilty of corruption. But many supporters and politicians of the main conservative opposition party, People Power, asked for Park’s pardon ahead of the presidential election in March, citing deteriorating health and worsening political strife.

Fallen South Korean leader Park Geun-hye arrives in court in Seoul, South Korea on August 25, 2017. REUTERS / Kim Hong-Ji / File Photo

Opposition lawmakers said Park suffered from health issues in prison, including shoulder surgery.

Park’s imprisonment had become a political hot potato dividing the country, with conservatives holding weekly rallies in downtown Seoul demanding his release and criticizing Moon until the COVID-19 pandemic emerged.

A Gallup Korea poll in November showed 48% of those polled opposed Park and Lee’s amnesty, but the numbers fell about 60% earlier this year.

Kim Mi-jeong, 42, a resident of the southern city of Gwangyang, said Park’s pardon was timely. Jang Yun-soo, from Hwaseong on South Korea’s west coast near Seoul, said his release was politically motivated.

Moon’s ruling Democratic Party flag bearer Lee Jae-myung and People Power candidate Yoon Suk-yeol are seen neck and neck in recent polls.

Lee said he understands Moon’s “agony” and respects his decision to national unity, but Park should apologize sincerely for the scandal.

Yoon said Park’s pardon was welcome albeit belated, but did not elaborate on reporters’ questions about his potential resumption of political activity.

Park’s predecessor, also conservative Lee Myung-bak, who is also jailed for corruption, has not been pardoned.

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Reporting by Josh Smith and Hyonhee Shin; Additional reporting by Yeni Seo and Dogyun Kim Editing by Matthew Lewis, Gerry Doyle and Michael Perry

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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