(LEAD) Yoon grants special pardons to 450,000, including ex-defense minister, ex-presidential chief of staff

SEOUL, President Yoon Suk Yeol granted special pardons to more than 450,000 people Tuesday on the occasion of the Lunar New Year, including former Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin and former presidential chief of staff Kim Ki-choon, officials said. The special presidential pardons, the fourth of their kind since Yoon's inauguration in 2022, will legally take effect at the beginning of Wednesday in the run-up to the Lunar New Year on Saturday. Among the most high-profile beneficiaries are Kim Kwan-jin, who served as defense minister from 2010 to 2014, and Kim Ki-choon, a former chief of staff for ousted former President Park Geun-hye. The former defense chief was given a two-year prison term by the Seoul High Court last year on charges of ordering the military cyber command to post online comments in favor of the then government ahead of major elections in 2012. He is currently serving as vice chairman of the presidential defense innovation committee. In a retrial last month, the Seoul High Court sentenced Kim Ki-choon to two years in prison in connection with charges that the Park government ordered the creation of a list of dissenting cultural bodies and artists and excluded them from government subsidies. Other beneficiaries included SK Executive Vice Chairman and SK On CEO Chey Jae-won and LIG Group Chairman Koo Bon-sang. Speaking at a Cabinet meeting where the government deliberated on the pardons, Yoon said the list was drawn up with a focus on reviving the economy of the people and included exemptions from various administrative penalties levied on drivers, restaurant industry workers, fishermen, and passenger and cargo transport operators. "The government will continue to take measures helpful to everyday economic activities," he said during the meeting at the presidential office. "I hope these pardons that are being granted ahead of the holiday will add vitality to the people's economies." In South Korea, the government has often granted special pardons to convicted politicians, business executives and other offenders at the start of a new year or around Liberation Day on Aug. 15 to reward good behavior and foster national harmony. The pardons are reviewed by a panel at the justice ministry before being sent to a Cabinet meeting for deliberation and then finalized by the president. Source: Yonhap News Agency