SEOUL – Outgoing South Korean President Lee Myung Bak on Tuesday brushed off criticism from his successor and handed out pardons to a host of former close aides and confidantes jailed for corruption.
The special pardons for 55 people included Lee’s longtime confidante and former Minister Choi See Joong and friend and businessman Chun Shin Il — both serving prison terms for bribery.
“This is not an abuse of power. It was carried out according to law and procedure,” Lee’s spokesman told reporters after the pardons were announced.
The list did not include Lee’s elder brother, Lee Sang Deuk, who was convicted and sentenced to two years in jail for corruption.
Lee’s successor, President-elect Park Geun Hye, who had urged Lee not to hand out the pardons, felt it was “extremely regrettable” that he had decided to go ahead, Park’s spokeswoman told reporters.
“The latest special pardons ignore the will of the people and are an abuse of presidential power, and will undoubtedly trigger nationwide condemnation,” the spokeswoman said.