Lee Jae-yong, the vice president of South Korean tech giant Samsung Electronics, who had been on parole since last year, has been granted a full pardon and will be reinstated in all rights in the course of a special amnesty on the occasion of South Korea’s Liberation Day, the republic’s justice ministry said Friday.
“On the occasion of the Liberation Day, the government has declared a special amnesty for 1,693 people starting August 15, 2022, including small and mid-size entrepreneurs… big businesses, trade union representatives and prisoners in special custody,” the ministry said in a statement.
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol said on Friday morning that the amnesty was aimed at “the recovery of the economy and the lives of citizens.”
According to the ministry, Lee and Lotte Group head Shin Dong-bin, who has been serving a suspended sentence since 2018, will be fully reinstated in rights. Dongkuk Steel head Chang Sae-joo and STX Group head Kang Duck-soo are also among the businesspersons pardoned under the amnesty.
As the amnesty focused on the economy, imprisoned politicians, including former South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, were excluded from the list. According to the Yonhap news agency, Yoon’s approval rating has drastically fallen, and pardoning the unpopular former president would exacerbate the situation.
Samsung’s Lee was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison on January 18, 2021, for handing over former South Korean President Park Geun-hye some 8.7 billion won ($669,000) in a bribe. Lee was released on August 13, 2021, also under an amnesty, but he was required to abide by parole rules and request permission for any travel abroad. Since February 2021, he was also subject to a five-year work restriction — a penalty being imposed on those convicted of economic crimes worth more than 500 million won.
Lee’s prison term ended on July 29, but he still required a pardon to be reinstated in all rights.
Lotte’s Shin was sentenced to a 2.5-year suspended prison term in October 2018 in a similar bribery case involving the former president.