SKorean government to pardon ex-Samsung chairman

AP News
Posted: Dec 29, 2009 7:29 AM

Convicted ex-Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee will be granted a special pardon to allow the influential business magnate to rejoin efforts to bring the Winter Olympics to South Korea, the government said Tuesday.

Lee, 67, stepped down in April 2008 after 20 years at the helm of the Samsung Group after being indicted in connection with losses at a Samsung affiliate and for tax evasion. He later was fined and sentenced to a suspended three-year prison term.

Lee, who holds a coveted spot on the International Olympics Committee, also voluntarily gave up his rights and duties as an IOC member in the wake of the indictments.

The government decided to pardon Lee to allow him to resume his role lobbying to bring the 2018 Winter Olympics to PyeongChang, a mountain resort east of Seoul.

The bid is the Asian nation's third to host the Winter Games. Seoul hosted the Summer Olympics in 1988.

"The nation's business and sports circles have demanded a special pardon for former chairman Lee, citing the need to boost PyeongChang's ongoing bid for the 2018 Winter Olympics," Justice Minister Lee Kwi-nam told a news conference.

He said the pardon takes effect Thursday.

Presnte Myung-bak also urged the former Samsung chairman to help South Korea win the Olympic bid. Lee and Samsung Group "should contribute to the country in the international sports arena and make efforts to enhance the country's competitiveness," the president said at a Cabinet meeting, according to spokeswoman Kim Eun-hye.

What Is John Brennan Hiding?
Sheriff David Clarke (Ret.)

The Samsung Group welcomed the government's decision to grant the former chairman a special pardon.

"We expect that Mr. Lee will devote himself fully supporting PyeongChang's bid to host the winter Olympic games in 2018," Samsung said in a statement.

South Korean presidents often mark key national holidays by granting pardons to the country's tycoons, but it is rare for the president to single one out for a special pardon.

Hyundai Motor Co. Chairman Chung Mong-koo received a presidential pardon last year, along with two other prominent convicted business leaders, as part of a traditional amnesty for the anniversary of the Korean peninsula's liberation from Japanese colonial rule in 1945.