No quid pro quo; Controversy arises again over whether to give parol to business leaders in jail for fraud, corruption or other corporate malpractices

No quid pro quo

Dec 27,2014

Controversy arises again over whether to give parol to business leaders in jail for fraud, corruption or other corporate malpractices. Minister of Justice Hwang Kyo-an first raised the issue by stating, “Corporate leaders are eligible for parole as long as they meet the requirements.” Then Choi Kyung-hwan, deputy prime minister for the economy and finance minister, joined the chorus by suggesting to President Park Geun-hye the need for special treatment of tycoons given their power to get the lackluster economy back on track. Kim Moo-sung, chairman of the ruling Saenuri Party, also leaped on the bandwagon by gleefully agreeing to the idea. The ruling party sooner or later plans to propose the paroles after discussing the issue in a Supreme Council meeting and consulting with the opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy. The Blue House stopped short of directly mentioning the possibility by saying, “Parole falls under the jurisdiction of the justice minister.” Nevertheless, the minister’s comments could well translate into his de facto consent. The justice minister has the exclusive authority of granting special paroles to business bigwigs. He or she doesn’t need presidential approval or consent from the political establishment. To put it simply, the decision is up to the minister.

Still, the justice minister’s cautious raising of the issue followed by the finance minister’s supportive comments reflects a pretty strong political push by the administration. They should tread carefully. Considering the public outrage over the macadamia nut scandal involving a family that controls the nation’s top airliner, the early release of fraudulent corporate leaders could be an extremely explosive issue for both the government and political circles, as it calls for the people’s acceptance beyond the realm of the law.

Shortly after the justice minister’s remarks, we made our position clear that the government must neither offer special privileges to business leaders nor should the leaders suffer reverse discrimination. That position is based on our belief that as long as a principle is strictly upheld by the Justice Ministry and it determines paroles in a fair and transparent manner, those who meet the legal requirement must not be excluded from the parole list just because they are from the corporate sector. Fortunately, voices are growing in the opposition to grant equal opportunity to business leaders. Yet the government must not grant them parole in exchange for promises to increase investments. It should be a matter of principles, not a business transaction.

JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 27, Page 30

Updated : 2014-12-26 17:07

Parole for tycoons

There should be right decision based on principles

Many Japanese economists have said in the past that one of the main reasons why the Korean economy was able to develop so quickly was because of fast decisions made by the owners of Korean conglomerates.
While many large Japanese companies were run by professional managers, who were reluctant to make important decisions on their own, Korean companies such as Samsung and LG were able to move rapidly in terms of investments and other plans.
This, some say, has allowed the conglomerates to play a major role in the development of the economy.
However, others accuse them of making all the profits and leaving everyone else out to dry ― such as taking advantage of subcontractors and irregular workers. But the reality is that the economy would not be what it is today without them.
As such, there have apparently been close ties among the government, political parties and conglomerates in setting up policies and making economic decisions.
And then things turned around. Since the Roh Moo-hyun administration, there have been moves to regulate the activities of chaebol owners who had been regarded as “untouchables.”
During the Lee Myung-bak administration, more than a few conglomerate owners stood trial for everything from fraud to embezzlement, something that would have been unimaginable in the past.
Some of them have been handed down prison terms; and owners like SK Chairman Chey Tae-won are still in jail, along with his brother Jae-won. Others like Hanwha Chairman Kim Seung-yeon and CJ Chairman Lee Jae-hyun have been in and out of prison, with Kim slowly making a comeback to his former office.
Amid these circumstances, the government and political parties have carefully been suggesting the possibility of providing parole for some of the chaebol owners in prison.
Kim Moo-sung, chairman of the ruling Saenuri Party, said such an initiative would be necessary to boost the economy at a time when momentum is beginning to move in a positive direction. Even Rep. Park Jie-won of the main opposition party spoke about the need to pardon those who have paid the price for their wrongdoings.
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Choi Kyung-hwan for his part said that he strongly proposed to President Park Geun-hye the need to offer leniency to chaebol owners who are behind bars.
While the environment is such that most parties concerned are eager to get chaebol owners back behind their desks, negative issues have been popping up. For one, people such as Cho Hyun-ah, the former vice president of Korean Air, have been creating headlines, stirring up negative feelings about conglomerates.
But the reality is that some of the major decisions concerning investments ― the top 10 conglomerates are sitting on 125 trillion won in cash ― are not being made because of the delicate situation involving their owners.
The decision is up to Cheong Wa Dae which is currently being rocked because of the leakage of information by its staff. Whether or not President Park will mention the predicament of chaebol owners in prison during her New Year speech is unclear. We can only hope that the parties involved will make the right decision based on principles.


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