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Chance for pardon puts CJ chairman in dilemma

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Published : 2016-07-15 09:24
Updated : 2016-07-15 17:06

South Korean conglomerate CJ Group is in a deep dilemma with the ongoing court appeal by its chairman complicated by chances that he will be pardoned next month, group insiders said Friday.

Lee Jay-hyun, who controls the group's businesses that sprawl from food and pharmaceuticals to entertainment and home shopping, is awaiting the Supreme Court's ruling on charges against him that include embezzlement, tax evasion and breach of trust. His confinement is currently suspended because of deteriorating health.


CJ officials said they are hoping Lee will be included in the special pardon that the presidential office is expected to carry out next month to mark the Aug. 15 Liberation Day anniversary. The government often grants amnesty on nationally significant days.

Last week President Park Geun-hye indicated there would be one for Aug. 15, and the speculation is that a number of business leaders will be included to have them return to their places and help with government efforts for economic recovery.

The catch is that Lee has to give up his Supreme Court appeal in order to qualify for the pardon that applies only to those whose sentence is fixed. But without any assurance that he will be pardoned, Lee could end up forsaking the last chance to be cleared of his charges and set free if he abandons the appeal.

Lee, 56, was indicted in 2013 and was sentenced to 30 months in prison in December last year by a Seoul appellate court. He underwent a kidney transplant and is said to be suffering from complications. He has also been diagnosed with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, a hereditary neurological disorder marked by progressive muscle loss. His confinement had been suspended a number of times for hospital treatment.

CJ insiders said there are risks in both giving up and continuing with the Supreme Court appeal, with no guarantee of a pardon or a ruling reversal by the top court. They said the company is also worried that Lee forsaking the appeal will invite public backlash as a coy move in anticipation of a pardon.

"We were taken aback by the unexpected announcement of a pardon when we weren't prepared at all," a CJ official said on condition of anonymity. "Ultimately, (Lee) will have to make his own decision." (Yonhap)