President Lee Myung-bak's mulling of granting special pardons within his tenure caused a backlash from both the ruling Saenuri Party and the main opposition Democratic United Party (DUP), Wednesday.
Meanwhile, President-elect Park Geun-hye remained silent about the move, prompting speculation whether she will continue the do-nothing stance or not despite mounting pressure on her to clarify her position.
Senior members of the ruling Saenuri Party expressed concern about the report that Lee is considering granting clemency to politicians, businesspeople and religious leaders who are serving jail terms after receiving petitions from their supporters calling for their release before he leaves office on Feb. 24.
Lee's aides and relatives, including former chairman of Korea Communications Commission Choi See-joong and Kim Jae-hong, former KT&G chairman and a cousin of first lady Kim Yoon-ok, are reportedly on the petition list.
Some media included Lee's brother, former lawmaker Lee Sang-deuk on the list, an allegation Cheong Wa Dae denied.
During a meeting with senior Saenuri Party members, Lee Hye-hoon, a Supreme Council member, expressed her clear-cut opposition to the alleged plan for clemency for those doing jail time for bribery convictions.
"I hope that the media report on President Lee's special pardons are not based on the fact. A sitting president is allowed to give clemency to people in jail while he or she is in office but it is inappropriate to give such clemency to people like them," the former lawmaker said.
She said it didn't make sense that Lee's brother, former lawmaker Lee Sang-deuk, was on the list as some media reported, because his trial is still underway. He is not eligible for pardon, she said.
"I am suspicious that people like Choi didn't appeal to a higher court probably because they knew that they would be eligible for clemency after they are convicted of their charges," Lee said.
Rep. Shim Jae-cheol joined the attack. "Giving special pardons to people involved in bribery scandals will undermine the independence of the judiciary," the lawmaker said.
He proposed that the nation come up with measures to prevent the abuse of the president's right to grant special pardons to people convicted of bribery.
The main opposition DUP, meanwhile, tried to link Lee's pardons to President-elect Park, an apparent move to hurt the image of the incoming president.
It criticized Lee, linking the attempts to offer the special pardons before he leaves office as a tailor-made clemency for his corrupt aides and relatives.
The DUP demanded that President-elect Park come clean on whether or not she negotiated with the sitting president about special pardons so that his aides serving jail terms will be released.