IOC member Lee Kun-hee
By Kang Seung-woo
Former Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee has been reinstated as a full member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
The IOC held a meeting of its executive board Monday (KST) in Vancouver, Canada, the venue for the 2010 Winter Olympics, scheduled to begin Friday, and reached a decision to restore his rights.
The 68-year-old tycoon, who was selected to the position in 1996, voluntarily gave up his IOC rights - the first time an IOC member has done so -- following his conviction in August 2008 for his involvement in tax evasion and breach of trust.
He was given a three-year prison term suspended for five years with a fine of 110 billion won ($95 million) last August.
However, the South Korean government pardoned him last December and Lee made it clear that he would return to the IOC.
With his reinstatement, South Korea currently has two IOC members. The other is former Olympic taekwondo gold medalist Moon Dae-sung, elected in August 2008.
Lee flew to Vancouver Monday and will attend the IOC general assembly Thursday, which will be his first meeting since July 2007 in Guatemala City.
Lee's return will be a big lift to PyeongChang's bid to host the Winter Olympic Games in 2018.
The county, 180 kilometers east of Seoul in Gangwon Province, lost in its two campaigns for the 2010 and 2014 Games to Vancouver and Sochi, Russia, respectively.
This time, it is competing with Munich, Germany and Annecy, France for the 2018 event and the host will be decided in July 2011 in Durban, South Africa.
"We are delighted to hear the news," said Park Yang-chun, chairman of the Korean Olympic Committee (KOC)'s international relations commission. "We are very pleased to hear of his reinstatement."
However, it has not been confirmed what part Lee will have in PyeongChang's bid.
"One way or another, he will join our bid," Park said. "There is nothing official yet. Lee will decide."