SEOUL, Jan. 19 (Xinhua) -- South Korea's presidential frontrunner heralded a severe punishment for corruption and cozy ties between politicians and businessmen after prosecutors requested an arrest warrant for the heir apparent of Samsung Group, the country's largest conglomerate.
Moon Jae-in, former head of the biggest opposition Minjoo Party, held a meeting with foreign correspondents in Seoul on Wednesday night, saying his country's punishment for corruptions involving the heads of conglomerate, called chaebol here, was too lenient in the past.
In the country's modern history, the chaebol chairmen were hardly in custody for criminal charges. If they faced a jail sentence, it was frequently suspended. The imprisoned chairmen were frequently released early by presidential pardon, Moon said.
The warrant to arrest Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong was sought Monday, but it was rejected early Thursday by a Seoul court.
South Korea has a long history of granting clemency to chaebol heads. Samsung's founder Lee Byung-chul was investigated in 1966 for a smuggling charge, but he was not punished.
The second-generation chief Lee Kun-hee was sentenced in 1996 to a suspended two-year jail term for bribing politicians, but he was pardoned about 13 months later. The 2008 suspended a three-year prison term for his tax evasion also ended with presidential pardon the following year.
The third-generation heir faced the arrest request, but it was met again with efforts to exaggerate negative effect on the entire economy as well as the country's most influential conglomerate.
The younger Lee has been in effect leading the business empire since his father Chairman Lee was hospitalized in May 2014 for heart attack.
Moon said "sham campaigns" were carried out to inflate the effect of chaebol head punishments on the economy, stressing that the healthier economy and chaebol will be made possible, should everyone be equally penalized for wrongdoings under the law.
He vowed to restrict presidential pardon for chaebol corruptions and make it difficult for white-collar crimes to be sentenced to a suspended jail term.
"Chaebol reform" apparently became the spirit of the country's present age, in which hundreds of thousands hold candlelight vigils every Saturday night to demand the resignation of the scandal-scarred president that resulted in the presidential impeachment.
Protesters shouted on the streets for the breakaway of chaebols, raising high effigies of conglomerate chiefs that are dressed in prison uniform and handcuffed.
Accordingly, presidential contenders in the opposition camp, including Moon who was the runner-up in the 2012 presidential election, pledge chaebol reform during campaigns.
A presidential race is forecast to be launched as early as late February if the constitutional court upholds the bill to impeach President Park Geun-hye, which was passed in the parliament by an overwhelming majority on Dec. 9.
"Now is a right time for foreigners to invest in (South) Korea though situations are thrown into disarray and look uncertain," said Moon.
The political crisis, Moon said, granted South Korea a great opportunity to eradicate "shades" hidden behind its dazzling growth in a short period of time, referring to business corruptions and collusive links between politicians and businessmen.
The eradication will make the South Korean economy more transparent and healthier, eventually helping end the prolonged low growth and raise its potential growth significantly, Moon said.