Abstract for: Social Dynamics of Traffic-Related Pardons in Korea

In Korea, presidential pardons for traffic violations have been carried out almost every three years, starting from 1995. Whenever Presidents announced pardons for traffic violators, they repeatedly emphasized justifiable reasons that drivers under administrative ruling should be given another chance to make a living by driving. Nonetheless, whenever Presidents issued pardons towards violators of traffic offenses, they were not free from a series of criticism or blame. In fact, the pardons were controversial from the outset. Findings from this research imply that the traffic-related pardons have led to unexpected results: notably, an increase in the number of traffic accidents between 6 and 18 months after the pardon, and raising the moral question of ‘bad’ drivers. In addition, the findings stress that President-initiated pardons acted as an essential factor in destructing the balancing mechanism, which would rather significantly contribute to minimizing traffic accidents per se. Even though Korean society as a whole has to endure additional social costs originating from the increase in traffic accidents, why have traffic-related pardons been consecutively adopted by Presidents? Simply speaking, political gains have been Presidents’ primary concerns, even transferring socio-economic costs to ordinary citizens. Therefore, we propose a series of policy alternatives which would contribute in reorienting policy designs of traffic-related pardons in Korea.