SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea’s president on Monday commuted the death sentences of six inmates on death row and pardoned the founder of the Daewoo conglomerate, convicted of fraud in one of the biggest corporate bankruptcies in history.
South Korean presidents traditionally hand out pardons for the new year.
President Roh Moo-hyun granted amnesty to Daewoo’s Kim Woo-choong, 71, along with 74 other people, including convicted business leaders, the Justice Ministry said in a statement.
South Korea, which is considering legislation to ban the death penalty, last carried out an execution on December 30, 1997, when 23 death-row inmates were hanged, Yonhap news agency reported. There are 58 inmates currently on death row.
Daewoo founder Kim, who once ran the country’s second largest conglomerate, was convicted in 2006 and sentenced to 10 years in jail for embezzlement and covering up billions of dollars in debt.
His sentence was later reduced to 8-½ years and then suspended due to health concerns.
Kim transformed Daewoo from a small textiles firm into a conglomerate that at its peak employed 320,000 people in 110 countries.
Once admired as a hero, Kim fled South Korea in 1999 when Daewoo collapsed with more than $70 billion in debt. He returned on a flight from Vietnam in 2005, saying he wanted to make peace with his past, and was arrested soon after touching down.
In 1999, the South Korean government took control of Daewoo’s debts, costing taxpayers billions of dollars.
The conglomerate has since been broken up into a number of separate businesses, including shipbuilding, carmaking and civil engineering.
(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz and Lee Jin-joo; Editing by David Fogarty)
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