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(LEAD) S. Korea grants special pardon to ex-President Park Geun-hye

National 10:22 December 24, 2021

(ATTN: UPDATES with details in paras 3, 6-10; ADDS photo; RECASTS lead para)

SEOUL, Dec. 24 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's government on Friday announced a special pardon for Park Geun-hye, the former president currently serving a 22-year prison term for corruption, saying that pardoning Park would help bolster national unity.

Park has been serving a combined 22-year prison sentence since March 2017 after being impeached and removed from office over far-reaching corruption charges and an influence-peddling scandal.

The 69-year-old former president was included in a list of 3,094 pardon beneficiaries who are scheduled to be released on New Year's Eve. The amnesty was decided in consideration of her deteriorating health.

This year, Park was hospitalized three times due to chronic shoulder and lower back pain. In 2019, she received shoulder surgery.

Granting a pardon to Park is expected to have a significant impact on next March's presidential election, as Park has commanded the support of voters in Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province, a stronghold of the main opposition People Power Party.

Detained former President Park Geun-hye enters Seoul St. Mary's Hospital in Seoul in a wheelchair to treat a chronic disease, in this July 20, 2021, file photo. (Yonhap)

The government also announced its will exonerate Han Myeong-sook, former prime minister during the liberal Roh Moo-hyun administration who was convicted of bribery and has served her full prison sentence.

Han, who served as prime minister from 2006 to 2007, was imprisoned from 2015-2017 after being convicted of accepting about 900 million won (US$795,000) in illegal political funds from a late businessman while in office.

She has long claimed innocence, arguing that she never accepted the money and that the charges against her were fabricated as part of political revenge by a conservative government against the Roh administration.

Former President Lee Myung-bak, who is currently serving a 17-year prison sentence over embezzlement and bribery convictions, was excluded from the pardon.

The government said the decisions were made as a means of overcoming a nationwide crisis prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic by moving forward from "the unfortunate history of the past and achieving a grand unity among the people."

This photo from Aug. 23, 2017, shows Han Myeong-sook (C), who served as prime minister during the liberal Roh Moo-hyun administration, being released from a detention center in Uijeongbu, north of Seoul, after serving her full two-year prison sentence. (Yonhap)

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