Former President Park Geun-hye, who is serving a 20-year prison term after she was convicted on bribery and other criminal charges, will be released on a special pardon. It has been about four years and nine months since she was arrested on March 31, 2017.
However, former President Lee Myung-bak was excluded from the special pardon.
Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Han Myung-sook, who was released from prison at maturity after being sentenced to prison for receiving illegal political funds, was reinstated.
Ahead of the New Year in 2022, the government announced on Dec. 24 that it will carry out special amnesty on Dec. 31 for 3,094 people, including former President Park, criminal offenders for the livelihood of ordinary people, special consideration prisoners, election criminals and social conflict-caused criminals.
Former President Park, a daughter of the former President Park Chung-hee, was in her fourth year in power in 2016 when hundreds of thousands of protesters began months of weekly rallies in central Seoul, demanding that she be forced from office for corruption and incompetence.
The National Assembly impeached her in December 2016 on charges of bribery and abuse of Presidential power in a case that exposed deep collusive ties between powerful politicians and major conglomerates.
In March 2017, Park became the first South Korean President to be removed from office through parliamentary impeachment after the Constitutional Court upheld the lawmakers’ decision. Shortly afterward, she was arrested on multiple criminal charges. In an initial ruling in 2018, she was sentenced to 24 years in prison.
The Supreme Court reduced Park’s sentence to 20 years in January this year and ordered her to pay 18 billion won in fines, saying that she and her longtime confidante Choi Soon-sil had collected or demanded $19.3 million in bribes from three big businesses, including $7 million they collected from Samsung Group.
On the special pardon, former President Park said through a lawyer Yoo Young-ha, "First of all, I apologize to the people for causing a lot of concern. In addition, I extend thanks to the people for showing unwavering support for me."
Park also said, "I would like to express my sincere gratitude to President Moon Jae-in and the government authorities for deciding to pardon me despite the difficulties. I will devote myself to treating my new diseases so that I can express my gratitude to the people as soon as possible."
The Presidential candidate Yoon Suk-yeol of the main opposition People Power Party, said on the special pardon in a press conference held at the National Assembly in Yeouido, “It was late but welcome. I heard that her health is not good. And I hope she will get well soon".
The Presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung of the ruling Democratic Party said in a statement earlier in the day, “I understand President Moo Jae-in’s agony for national integration in the course of making a decision to pardon Park and respect the difficult decision."
Until now, the Presidential candidate Lee has expressed opposition to former President Park's pardon.