On August 12, South Korea announced a sweeping amnesty for convicted business tycoons including the Hyundai Motor boss, citing a need to reinvigorate the economy. The aim is "to help strengthen national unity and provide momentum for business leaders and all the people to make joint efforts to reinvigorate the economy and create new jobs," the government said.
The pardons granted by President Lee Myung-Bak include 74 leading business people. Among them are Hyundai Motor chairman Chung Mong-Koo, SK group chairman Chey Tae-Won and Hanwha group chairman Kim Seung-Youn.
Presidents have traditionally granted amnesties to celebrate Liberation Day marking the end of Japanese colonial rule over Korea on August 15, 1945.
Critics say the pardons show that the nation is not serious about cleaning up its corporate culture. Most of the convicted businessmen on the list are already free after receiving suspended jail terms.
Chung Mong-Koo was convicted last year of raising a slush fund to bribe government officials and others. An appeal court in June upheld a suspended three-year jail sentence on him. Hanwha's Kim was jailed for kidnapping and beating up bar employees after his son sustained injuries in a bar brawl. His sentence was suspended last September. Chey of SK Group received a suspended sentence for irregular business practices, including illicit stock dealing and book-keeping irregularities involving 1.5 trillion won (now US$ 1.07 billion).
Former Samsung group chairman Lee Kun-Hee was not included because he is still on trial. He has appealed against a suspended prison sentence imposed in July for tax evasion after he quit the nation's biggest business group.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008