S. Korea Pardons Samsung Chief to Lead Olympic Bid
Convicted embezzler holds seat on Olympic Committee
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 29, 2009 6:57 AM CST
Former Samsung GroupLee Kun-hee gets into a car to leave the Seoul Court House after his trial in Seoul, South Korea earliert his year.    (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon, File)

(Newser) – South Korea has granted a pardon to a former Samsung chairman found guilty of embezzlement to allow him to lead the country's bid for the 2018 Winter Olympics. President Lee Myung-bak said he pardoned Lee Kun-hee to allow him to keep his seat on the International Olympic Committee and to help the southern city of PyeongChang's campaign for the Games, the New York Times reports.

The tycoon received a 3-year suspended sentence earlier this year for massive tax evasion and embezzlement. It's unclear whether he will now return to Samsung. Civic groups slammed the decision. "President Lee talked about national interest, but a criminal convict traveling around the world campaigning for South Korea’s Olympic bid will only hurt our national interest and image," says one economist.