Shim Woo-jung, the acting minister of justice, announces the subjects of 2024 Lunar New Year special pardons at the central government complex in Seoul on Feb. 6. (Yonhap)
Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol has pardoned Kim Kwan-jin, a former minister of national defense, and Kim Ki-choon, a former presidential chief of staff, both of whom were convicted in an investigation that he himself led during his time as a prosecutor. Even though the courts had sentenced the two Kims to prison, they ended up never serving a single day. The sweeping presidential pardons also included soldiers who had kept illegal tabs on family members of victims of the tragic sinking of the Sewol ferry and MBC executives who took part in union-busting.
In a briefing held at the main government office in Seoul’s Jongno District on Monday, Shim Woo-jung, the acting justice minister, announced pardons of 980 people for the Lunar New Year, one of Korea’s major holidays.
“The pardons include the self-employed, small and medium-sized business owners, and poor people who committed crimes to support themselves,” Shim said.
This round of pardons, which is Yoon’s fourth since becoming president, went into effect Wednesday.
Eight senior officials were covered by the pardons, including Kim Kwan-jin, who had received a two-year prison sentence for ordering the military’s Cyber Command to post political comments online in an attempt to manipulate public opinion during the presidency of Lee Myung-bak.
Another is Kim Ki-choon, who had also received a two-year prison sentence as the main culprit behind the “cultural blacklist” that sought to block certain figures in the fields of arts and culture with perceived anti-government stances — including heavyweights like Bong Joon-hoo and Cho Chong-nae — from receiving government subsidies during the presidency of Park Geun-hye.
Both Kims had their prison terms commuted and their rights and privileges restored.
The two Kims’ prison sentences had been confirmed on Feb. 1, but strangely enough they were not taken into custody before their pardons were announced.
Yoon’s pardons also expunged the convictions and restored the rights and privileges of Kim Dae-yeol and Ji Yeong-kwan, two former chiefs of staff for the Defense Security Command who were sentenced to two-year prison sentences for the illegal surveillance of citizens, including the family members of victims of the tragic sinking of the Sewol ferry in 2014.
The same was done for Seo Cheon-ho, the former second deputy director of the National Intelligence Service, who was given a six-month prison term, suspended for one year, for taking part in a police scheme to manipulate public opinion with online comments during the presidency of Lee Myung-bak.
When a prison sentence is commuted, the criminal record remains, but when a conviction is vacated, the record is expunged. The restoration of rights and privileges enables pardoned individuals to run for elections, a right that was suspended by their guilty verdict.
As part of these pardons, Yoon also commuted the sentences and restored the rights and privileges of Kim Jang-kyom and Ahn Gwang-han, two former presidents of MBC. Five major businesspeople, including SK Group Senior Vice Chairman Chey Jae-won and LIG Group Chairman Koo Bon-sang, were also among those whose rights and privileges were restored.
By Oh Yeon-seo, staff reporter
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