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UPDATE1: S. Korean Pres. Lee grants pardons to friend, close associates.

SEOUL, Jan. 29 Kyodo

(EDS: ADDING DETAIL)

President Lee Myung Bak, whose term ends next month, granted special pardons Tuesday to a long-time friend, close associates and others.

Among the 55 pardoned are Lee's long-time friend Chun Shin Il and close political ally Choi See Joong, both of them convicted of bribery.

Lee, who steps down after a five-year term, approved the pardons at a Cabinet meeting.

But President-elect Park Geun Hye raised objection to the pardons, saying through her spokesman she is "negative about pardons at the end of the administration" and she is "strongly concerned" about pardoning those imprisoned for corruption.

"The special pardons are deeply regrettable. Pardons for those implicated in corruption and irregularities will surely come under public criticism. President Lee Myung Bak should be held responsible for any consequences that may arise from that," Park's spokesman Yoon Chang Joong said shortly after the announcement.

Lee's office has said special pardons are a presidential right and noted South Korean presidents have often granted special pardons to commemorate national holidays such as Lunar New Year's Day or at the end of their terms.

Park won last month's presidential election and will become the country's first female president.
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Publication:Asian Political News
Date:Feb 4, 2013
Words:200
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