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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on April 4)

All News 07:00 April 04, 2017

Pardoning Park
Getting to bottom of her crimes is priority

Two frontrunners for the May 9 presidential election traded jabs with each other about pardoning Park Geun-hye, the former president who was impeached, removed from office and has now been arrested on corruption charges.

Last Friday, Ahn Cheol-soo of the People's Party talked about setting up a committee to deal with the issue of pardoning Park fairly. It triggered a sharp response from Moon Jae-in of the Democratic Party of Korea, who criticized Ahn for using the issue to gain the support of conservative voters who sympathize with the disgraced head of state. Ahn countered that he only talked in principle and said that it was Moon who showed how narrow-minded he was.

Now conservative voters are up for grabs with no significant candidates from their ideology. For Ahn and Moon, it is pivotal to take a slice of these conservative stragglers to win the election, with pardoning Park likely to emerge as a hot campaign issue during the short one-month campaign period.

But Moon, Ahn and conservative candidates should bear in mind the dangers of Park's fate becoming a campaign issue of contention.

Park has been under arrest for less than a week after denying all charges against her _ 13 counts of influence peddling, collusion with and extortion from chaebol to fill up the coffers of two organizations that belonged to her friend, Choi Soon-sil.

In the process, Park showed little remorse by playing the role of a victim of a political conspiracy, refusing to accept the political resolution of her disservice to the nation by stepping down in the lead-up to and during the impeachment trial. It was only the outpouring of popular outrage of unprecedented proportions that pushed the National Assembly to act on her impeachment motion in the first place.

At least three things are needed to even begin to consider pardoning Park. The first is the completion of investigations and court proceedings to determine whether she is guilty or not. So far, she has claimed her innocence in the court of law so there are no grounds to pardon her.

Second, there should be the people's consensus about an amnesty. Many Koreans remain indignant and want to know the whole truth about Park's scandal that is still shrouded by mythic elements such as Choi being a shaman. They want this episode to set an example and forewarn future leaders to behave.

Third, Park should contribute to the national healing process by being apologetic about her total failure as a leader and the damage it has bought the nation to bear. So far, she is defiant, not admitting the scope of her misdeeds. No apologies, no forgiveness.

Moon, Ahn and other politicians should refrain from making a political issue out of this during the heat of campaigning. Rather, they would be best advised to postpone this issue until the election is over so as to bring a more sober mind to it.

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