Once upon a time, end-of-tenure presidential pardons served a useful purpose as reformers tried to correct past wrongs, such human rights violations, which were too politically problematic at those times. And in some cases involving foreigners, pardons could be used to flush jails of non-Korean miscreants to planes heading for their home countries.
But over the past decade, this presidential prerogative has been misused to rescue political cronies and executives of “too big to fail” enterprises, without risking ensuing political blowback. While South Korea is better than most Asian countries in being a nation of laws, there is an understandable cynicism about the law held my most Koreans.
The big fish have a way of getting undeserved leniency while the more common Korean can expect a greater brunt of the law if convicted.
This is another example of what I’ve been recently labeling as the “Two-Tier Korea” consisting of the privileged wealthy minority being set apart from the common mainstream. There is certainly some of this class inconsistency in every society, but this matter seems to becoming further institutionalized with each passing year.
Now, incoming President Park Geun-hye is claiming she is going to reverse this trend. We will have to wait to see if her action matches her words.
A good article on this is can be found at: Departing S. Korean Leader Creating Furor with Pardons
by Tom Coyner.