Justice ministry says Park’s pardon is aimed at promoting national unity in the face of difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
South Korea says it will grant a special pardon to former President Park Geun-hye, who is serving a lengthy prison term for a series of corruption charges.
The justice ministry said on Friday that Park’s pardon is aimed at promoting national unity in the face of difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
She was on a list of people receiving special amnesty and was pardoned from “a perspective of national unity”, Justice Minister Park Beom-kye later explained to reporters following the ministry’s announcement.
Yonhap news agency quoted the justice minister as saying that the former president’s pardon was discussed during a two-day meeting of the ministry’s amnesty review committee earlier this week.
He said the health factor “was a very important criterion” in the amnesty decision.
Park was arrested and sent to prison in 2017, after being removed from office following a corruption scandal that prompted months of street protests.
Park is the daughter of late authoritarian President Park Chung-hee.
She was elected as South Korea’s first female president.
The 69-year-old was serving a 20-year prison sentence for bribery and abuse of power, with another two years after that for election law violations.
In January, the country’s top court upheld the sentence, bringing an end to the legal process and for the first time raising the possibility of a pardon.
The corruption scandal exposed shady links between big businesses and politics in South Korea, with Park and her close friend Choi Soon-sil accused of taking bribes from conglomerates, including Samsung Electronics, in exchange for preferential treatment.
The resulting public backlash against Park and her conservative party helped propel the left-leaning Moon Jae-in into power.
Park has pleaded her innocence to the charges, saying she never accepted the money. She claimed that the charges were fabricated as part of political revenge by a conservative government against the Roh administration.
Park’s predecessor Lee Myung-bak, who is also imprisoned, was not pardoned. He is serving a 17-year prison sentence over embezzlement and bribery convictions.
The decision came as many supporters and politicians of the conservative main opposition People Power party have been calling for Park’s pardon ahead of the March 2022 presidential election.
The flag bearer of Moon’s ruling Democratic Party, Lee Jae-myung, and People Power’s candidate Yoon Suk-yeol have been neck and neck in recent polls.