South Korea's main business groups appealed yesterday to South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun to pardon top corporate criminals, including Daewoo Group founder Kim Woo-choong, for the sake of the economy.
The five biggest business groups delivered a letter to the presidential office, asking Roh to grant special amnesty to 51 businessmen before the Christmas holiday season.
They have been sentenced to jail terms on charges of inflating balance sheets, raising slush funds or other offences.
"We hope the government will grant pardons for businessmen by the end of this year, because it's time to reboot entrepreneurship," reads the letter by the groups, including the Federation of Korean Industries and the Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Among others, they sought pardons for Jang Jin-ho, former chairman of Jinro Group, a now-defunct distilled liquor group; Choi Won-seok, former chairman of Dong-Ah Engineering and Construction, a builder which is being liquidated; and Lim Chang-wook, an honorary chairman of Daesang Group, a food conglomerate.
In the wake of the 1997-98 East Asian financial crisis more than a dozen family-run conglomerates, known as chaebol, collapsed under mounting debt after building their empires on risky borrowing.
Daewoo Group founder Kim, 69, has been jailed for eight-and-a-half-years for embezzlement and fraud.
Daewoo had debts of US$82 billion when it collapsed in 1999 in one of the world's largest corporate failures. The government was forced to spend some 30 trillion won (now US$31.7 billion) to rescue it.