(ATTN: UPDATES with more details from 9th para)
SEOUL, Aug. 12 (Yonhap) -- President Yoon Suk-yeol granted his first special pardons to Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong, Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin and 1,691 others on the occasion of next week's Liberation Day anniversary, the government said Friday.
The government announced the pardons to be effective from Liberation Day on Monday.
Former President Lee Myung-bak had initially been widely expected to benefit from the pardons but was not included in the list. Also excluded was former South Gyeongsang Province Govenor Kim Kyoung-soo.
The most prominent beneficiary is Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee.
He was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison in a bribery case involving former President Park Geun-hye and released on parole in August last year. His prison term officially ended July 29, but he still needs a pardon to have all his rights reinstated.
Lotte Group Chairman Shin was sentenced to a suspended 2 1/2-year prison term in October 2018 in a similar bribery case involving former President Park.
A widely expected pardon for the 81-year-old former President Lee was ruled out at the last minute as Yoon's approval rating has fallen to unusually low levels and pardoning the unpopular former president could worsen his standing.
Lee has been out of prison since June after a court granted a three-month suspension of his prison term over health issues.
Also on the list are Chang Sae-joo, chairman of Dongkuk Steel Mill Co., former STX Group Chairman Kang Duk-soo and several labor activists, including a former leader of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions' public transport guild.
The others are those convicted of petty criminal offences, small-size business owners and inmates in needy situations.
"Key business people were included in the pardons in consideration of their roles in leading national growth through technology investment and job creation, given that the country badly needs to overcome an economic crisis," a government official said.
Speaking at the Cabinet meeting, President Yoon expressed hope that his special Liberation Day pardons would help stabilize people's livelihoods and pull the nation out of its economic crisis.
In South Korea, presidents usually grant special pardons in commemoration of major national holidays, with leaders of top conglomerates, known as chaebol, often becoming beneficiaries on the grounds that their return to management will help boost the domestic economy.