President Park Geun-hye on Thursday granted a special pardon to SK Group chairman Chey Tae-won who was imprisoned for more than two years for embezzlement.
Chey is the first business tycoon to be released by the president's pardons administered to mark the 70th anniversary of the nation's liberation from 1910-45 Japanese rule. Park also pardoned 13 other businessmen including Hanhwa vice chairman Kim Hyun-joong and Yeochun NCC CEO Hong Dong-wook.
About 2.2 million Koreans convicted of minor crimes or those who received administrative penalties were also granted the president's clemency.
The list was released by Justice Minister Kim Hyun-woong after a Cabinet meeting held at Cheong Wa Dae.
The president said she was exercising her special power to achieve the nation's unity, economic revitalisation and also to boost the people's pride ahead of the Liberation Day holiday.
She said she was offering an opportunity for people from low-income families and small businesses so that they could stand on their feet again and also for some entrepreneurs to encourage them to join in the efforts to revive the sluggish economy.
Park has granted special paroles once so far, and only for minor crimes committed by those living in poverty on Lunar New Year's Day last year. She has not granted presidential pardons to politicians or businessmen in prison since taking office in early 2013.
Under the law, South Korean presidents are not required to seek parliamentary endorsement for their exercise of special pardons.