SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea's President Park Geun-hye on Thursday pardoned a tycoon convicted of embezzlement who heads the country's third-largest business group.
The justice ministry said in a statement that SK Group's Chey Tae-won will be among some 6,500 people to be released from prison before the 70th anniversary Saturday of Korea's liberation from Japan's colonial occupation.
It said the government decided on pardons for 14 business people including Chey based on their contributions to the national economy.
Chey was serving a 4-year prison term that began in January 2013 after being found guilty of embezzling company funds to trade financial products. He remained chairman of SK Group while in prison.
It is the first time that Park has pardoned the head of a chaebol, as big family-controlled business groups are known in South Korea. The move is likely to renew debate about unfair leniency toward the powerful and the economy's reliance on conglomerates.
Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee, who was convicted of tax evasion and embezzlement, received a presidential pardon in 2009. Then, the government said Lee, a member of the International Olympic Committee, would help South Korea win in its bid to host the 2018 Winter Olympics.