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

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By Hyonhee Shin and Josh Smith

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korean President Moon Jae-in has pardoned former President Park Geun-hye, who was in jail after being convicted of corruption, the Justice Department said on Friday, in the midst 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 parliamentary vote in 2017 to impeach her over a scandal https://www.reuters.com/ article / us-southkorea-politics -park-idUSKCN1HD0MN which also landed the heads of two conglomerates, including Samsung, in jail.

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.

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 thanking Moon for making a difficult decision.

Moon’s office said Park’s forgiveness was intended to “overcome an unhappy past story, promote people’s unity and join 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.

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 national unity decision, 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 https://www.reuters.com/article/us-southkorea-politics-corruption-idUSKCN1GI0HX, who is also jailed for corruption, has not been pardoned.

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

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