Posted by: rbbadger | August 12, 2008

Pardons South Korean style

As a part of the National Liberation Day celebrations, President Lee Myeong-bak will pardon about 341,000 people, mostly businessmen, prominent civil servants, and the like who were convicted of various crimes ranging from assault (in the case of the chairman of the Hanhwa chaebol), to fraud, to embezzlement.  The raison d’etre of these pardons is to help revive an economy that is having a difficult time.  

Various countries have different approaches to pardons.  Canada uses them to mark the full rehabilitation of a former criminal.  If a person has lived for 10 years as a model citizen without any other offenses, it is possible to petition the government for a pardon which is often granted.  And of course, we all remember about the pardons scandal of the Clinton Administration, one of the sleaziest presidencies in recent memory. 

While pardoning someone who has truly served his debt to society is a good thing, such powers should be used only rarely.  The rule of law is an important thing and in a country where the ideal of the rule of law is still new and still developing, I’m not certain that this is a good thing.  Korea has made giant steps forward in this respect, but I fear that massive pardons of this type will only lessen people’s respect for the law.

South Korea is now a nation of free people, more or less.  But the second half of the equation, governed by the rule of law, is still be hashed out it seems.


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