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Can pardoned former presidents be buried at National Cemetery?

Can pardoned former presidents be buried at National Cemetery?

Posted April. 14, 2018 09:58,   

Updated April. 14, 2018 09:58

한국어

Four former Korean presidents, Chun Doo-hwan, Roh Tae-woo, Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye, are alive as of today. It is questionable that they all can be buried at the National Cemetery after they die, but the only thing that is certain for now is the fact that everyone dies.

Under the current law, former President Park Geun-hye cannot be buried in the National Cemetery. The National Cemetery Act bans those who are dismissed from office following impeachment or disciplinary action from being buried in the National Cemetery. Park was impeached after the Constitutional Court upheld her impeachment and recently sentenced her to 24 years in prison in the first criminal trial. But some say it is hard to predict what will happen, given rapidly changing political landscape and the possibility of pardon and reinstatement of status.

It remains to be seen whether former President Lee Myung-bak, who was arrested on charges of receiving 11 billion won in bribe and embezzling about 35 billion won, will be eligible to be buried in the National Cemetery. The National Cemetery Act prohibits those who are convicted of crimes such as embezzlement from being buried in the National Cemetery.

As for former Presidents Chun and Roh, the legal judgment on the nature of the amnesty and reinstatement of status granted on them will be the biggest issue in determining the eligibility for their right to be buried in the National Cemetery. Chun was sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of rebellion and bribery but was later released on a special pardon in December 1997. Roh was sentenced to 17 years in prison for rebellion but also released on a special pardon.

According to the cabinet meeting minutes, which were made back in August 2009 when former President Kim Dae-jung died, then Justice Minister Kim Kyung-han said at the meeting, “The court found former President Kim Dae-jung not guilty on charges of conspiracy of a rebellion and violation of martial law, and he has been granted amnesty and reinstated on the charge of violation of National Security Law.” “Past precedents show that those who received amnesty still could not be buried in the National Cemetery,” the minister said at the cabinet meeting. “As the Ministry of Justice recently reexamined the issue, however, we came to determine that the rights to vote, be voted, and be buried in the National Cemetery will also be restored for those who are granted amnesty and reinstatement of status.”

It is also argued that the judgment of the Ministry of Justice may invite controversy surrounding the right of other former presidents to be buried in the National Cemetery. People argue that former Presidents Chun and Roh are also entitled to be buried in the National Assembly since they both have been granted amnesty and reinstatement of status.

The controversy surrounding the right to be buried in the National Cemetery is likely to continue as there are voices complaining that it is not fair for former Presidents Chun and Roh to be denied the right to be buried in the National Cemetery when former President Kim was allowed to be buried in the National Cemetery by even changing the principle.


Kwan-Seok Jang jks@donga.com