November 23 - Calls are growing for the South Korean Government to grant a Presidential pardon to Lee Kun-hee (pictured), the former chairman of Samsung Group who received a suspended jail term for breach of trust in August, so that he can play a leading role in Pyeongchang's bid to hos the 2018 Winter Olympics.


Leaders of South Korean sports organisations last week called on the President Lee Myung-bak to include Lee in the Presidential amnesty that is traditionally announced to coincide with Christmas.


Lee, a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) since 1996, voluntarily relinquished his membership in July last year, citing the need to resolve legal disputes surrounding him and Samsung.


Lee was handed a three-year prison term, which was suspended for five years, on conviction of illegal bond trading.


He was also fined 110 billion won (£57.3 million).


The 66-year-old tycoon quit as chairman of Samsung Group, Korea's largest family-controlled conglomerate, in April last year.


Cho Yang-ho, chairman of the Hanjin Group, who jointly heads the Pyeongchang Bid Committee, is leading the calls for a Presidential pardon.


He said: "I think his [Lee's] reinstatement will greatly help Pyeongchang expand its support base [in the IOC]."


Cho claimed Lee's resumption of Olympic activity is "desperately needed" ahead of a meeting of IOC members in Vancouver at the 2010 Winter Olympics when lobbying is due to begin in earnest among the three candidates.


Annecy and Munich are also bidding with the IOC due to announce its choice at its Session in Durban on July 6, 2011.


It is Pyeongchang's third bid having narrowly failed to be successful for the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics which were awarded to Vancouver and Sochi respectively.


Sohn Kyung-sik, chairman of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry, is also backing pleas for a pardon.


He said: "We hope that Lee will receive amnesty within this year, not only for the hosting of the Winter Olympics but also for the national economy."



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