Former South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on Tuesday (December 27th) received a presidential pardon, thus shortening his 17-year prison sentence for corruption, announced the Minister of Justice.
Lee Myung-bak is on a list of more than 1,300 people granted special pardon "
in view of broad national unity through reconciliation, tolerance and respect
", Han Dong-hoon told reporters after a cabinet meeting with President Yoon Suk-yeol.
The 81-year-old former head of state, released on bail in June due to his age and chronic illnesses, was serving a 17-year prison sentence for corruption and embezzlement.
It was effectively a life sentence, as he was not due to be released until 2036, when he would be 95 years old.
The former Hyundai CEO turned chairman was charged with 16 counts in 2018 and convicted in 2020.
Lee Myung-bak was found guilty of creating slush funds worth tens of millions of dollars and accepting bribes from Samsung Electronics, in exchange for securing a presidential pardon for group CEO Lee Kun-hee, then imprisoned for tax evasion and since deceased.
" appointed head of a large construction company at the age of 35 before entering politics, Lee Myung-bak was president from 2008 to 2013.
Democratic norms undermined
He led the country through the global financial crisis and won Seoul's bid for the 2018 Winter Olympics, but has been criticized by opponents for undermining the country's democratic standards and freedom of speech.
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The new round of presidential pardons, which take effect Wednesday at midnight, is the second under Yoon Suk-yeol's presidency since taking office in May.
In August, Samsung Electronics de facto leader Lee Jae-yong, son of Lee Kun-hee, was among the beneficiaries of the first amnesties granted by Yoon Suk-yeol.
Corruption and treason
In South Korea, heads of state often find themselves in prison once they leave power, often following a political change.
Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo, both jailed for corruption and treason in the 1990s after leaving the highest state offices, were granted amnesty after spending around two years behind bars.
Lee Myung-bak's successor, Park Geun-hye, was pardoned last year while serving a 20-year prison sentence for corruption and abuse of power.