S. Korea Cabinet Recommends Amnesty
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) _ President Kim Young-sam’s Cabinet has recommended amnesty for 23 businessmen, including seven conglomerate heads convicted of bribery, tax evasion and embezzlement.
Government officials said the amnesties, expected to be approved by the president, will clear the 23 of their criminal records and reinstate their civil rights as early as Friday, Korea’s national foundation day.
The action was seen as a prelude to granting amnesty to two former presidents _ Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo _ who were convicted of receiving bribes from some of those businessmen while in office.
President Kim has indicated that he will pardon and free his two jailed predecessors before he steps down at the end of his current five-year term in February. By law, Kim cannot seek re-election.
Among those recommended for amnesty on Tuesday were the heads of seven of South Korea’s biggest conglomerates, including Samsung and Daewoo.
They were given suspended sentences of up to 2 1/2 years last year for handing out millions of dollars in bribes to the ex-presidents in the 1980s.
Also covered by the amnesty were 14 executives of the Hyundai group, who were either convicted of evading taxes or embezzling company funds to bankroll the presidential campaign of their group chairman, Chung Ju-yung, in 1991.
Chung, founder of Hyundai, finished a distant third in the 1991 election. The legal action against his aides, all from Hyundai subsidiaries, was seen by some as a political reprisal.
South Korean conglomerates have often been accused of expanding their businesses by bribing government officials.
Chun and Roh, ex-army generals who ruled South Korea from 1980 to 1992, were sentenced to life and 17 years in prison for a 1979 coup and a massacre of hundreds of pro-democracy protesters in 1980.
They were also found guilty of accepting bribes while in office and fined $270 million and $350 million, respectively.
South Korea’s once booming economy is in deep recession with its international balance of payments deteriorating.