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Business leaders as first beneficiary of President Yoon's pardon Updated: 2022-08-12 17:28:13 KST

The pardon granted today to Samsung's de facto leader comes at a crucial time for the company.
Semiconductors are front and center in the global economy right now, so there's a lot for Lee Jae-yong to do, now that he can go back to work.
The decision to pardon him also seems to have been well received by the public for that reason.
For a closer look at what his pardon means for the business world, the economy, and more generally the significance of presidential pardons in general, we're joined this evening by Professor Cho Hee-kyung, Professor at the College of Law at Hongik University.
She joins us via Skype.
And here in the studio, Arirang's very own Lee Kyung-eun, who's been following today's developments for us.
Welcome to you both.

Well, Devin.
I looked through all the lists of people who were granted pardons by the previous administrations.
And I found that every president does have a history of giving pardon to some heads of the country's conglomerates.
That includes presidents Roh Moo-hyun and Lee Myung-bak who freed former Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee.
Former president Park Geun-hye also granted a pardon for the chairman of SK Group Chey Tae-won.
When Moon Jae-in was in office he had tried to exclude business leaders but did grant parole for Samsung Vice Chair Lee Jae-yong.
This time, four business leaders including Lee are being released.
But what's notable is that in the past, business leaders were not named on any of the previous administations' very first lists of pardons.

The president noted that the purpose is to help the economy and improve the livelihoods of the people.
In terms of the cases mentioned, did their pardons actually have an impact on the economy?
Although it will be hard to prove there's a direct correlation.
But i do want to bring your attention to several cases.
For example, former Samsung Chair Lee Kun-hee who was pardoned by Lee Myung-bak is considered to have played a pivotal role in helping South Korea win the bid to host the 2018 Winter Olympics.
During the following administration under former President Park Geun-hye chairman of SK Group Chey Tae-won was able to bring much investment to his company's growth.

And that's acutally what the President said that he's hoping to see as a result of the decision to pardon four business leaders.
Let's take a listen.

"The global economy has been hit hard and uncertainties are increasing. The utmost priority is people's livelihoods, and that needs the government's help, but also the economy has to be booming for people to get some breathing room."
.

In fact, there is a lot of support from the South Korean public for Lee Jae-yong pardon as high as 77 percent in one survey.
Which, largely reflects that people expect there to be a positive impact.

What in particular are we expecting to see through the release of these business leaders this time?
Well, prior to today's pardon, Samsung's de facto leader Lee Jae-yong was technical on a conditional release.
So, his business activities like making decisions as a board member were largely restricted.
And he couldn't travel freely either.
But now, he can fully exercise his decision-making rights and more aggressively push for what the company is calling the "New Samsung Vision" that is: competitiveness in the systems semiconductor sector.
It had previously laid the vision for the systems semiconductor industry where the company aims to hold 10 percent of global market share by 2030.
Samsung is also actively looking for potential M&A targets as well where the leader's role is very critical.
Take a listen to what he had to say.

"I will work hard for the country's economy."

And that'll certainly provide major momentum for the new Yoon Suk-yeol administration's vision of making the country a semiconductor powerhouse amid intensifying global competition from rivals.
Lee Jae-yong is also expected to play a strategic moderator role on behalf of South Korea amid the U.S.' call for Seoul to join the Chip 4.

Can we also expect some impact diplomatically or culturally, aside from economy-related effects resulting from today's presidential pardon?
I think we can refer to the example of PyeongChang Winter Olympics.
South Korea is currently trying to win the bid to host the 2030 World Expo which is one of the world's biggest international events, along with the World Cup and Olympics.
The head of the country's bid is SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won as well as top executives of 11 conglomerates.
Among the 11 groups are Samsung Electronics and Lotte and among those released today are the heads of these two companies.
The 2030 World Expo is expected to create economic effects of 61 trillion won or roughly 50 billion for the local economy.

The most high-profile pardon today was that of Samsung's de facto leader, Lee Jae-yong. What effect do pardons like this have on the business environment? For example, do they undermine business ethics or rule of law?

One notable pardon that was not granted was to former President Lee Myung-bak, who is still serving a sentence for corruption. Lee Myung-bak was convicted of corruption in 2018, years after he left office. President Moon let one former president out of prison very recently. Why did this administration choose not to pardon former President Lee, who is now 81 years old?

As an expert in the law, are there any special pardons granted this time that stand out to you? Perhaps pardons that we haven't talked about already?

The President of the Republic of Korea has the power to grant these pardons as the chief executive of the government. Is there a specific purpose that this serves in terms of a national or social interest? Could you speak to any criticisms of this presidential power?
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