Wednesday, 14 November, 2018

Fate of key figures in S. Korean scandal that toppled Park

JUST IN: Ex-president sentenced to 24 years in Jail South Korean court jails former president Park Geun-hye for 24 years
Ebony Burgess | 07 April, 2018, 01:05

South Korea's disgraced former president Park Geun-hye was jailed for 24 years Friday for corruption, completing a dramatic fall from grace for the country's first woman leader who became a figure of public fury and ridicule.

A judge at Seoul Central District Court issued a lengthy verdict on Friday, eventually reaching a sentence six years shy of prosecutors' demands.

Park, 66, maintains she's a victim of "political revenge" and has been refusing to attend court sessions since October.

The court ruled that Park colluded with her friend, Choi Soon-sil, to pressurise business groups including Samsung and Lotte to give millions of dollars to Choi's family, and foundations run by her.

Her ouster from office a year ago led to a presidential election won by the liberal Moon Jae-in, whose conciliatory stand on North Korea has underpinned a significant warming of ties between the rival neighbours. Park once described Choi as someone who helped her when she had difficulties in the past.

"The defendant abused her presidential power entrusted by the people, and as a result, brought massive chaos to the order of state affairs and led to the impeachment of the president, which was unprecedented", said Judge Kim Se-yoon.

Park is the daughter of a deeply divisive dictator, Park Chung-hee, who is revered by supporters as a hero who spearheaded South Korea's rapid economic rise in the 1960s to the 1970s. She has been sentenced to 24 years in prison.

Younger, liberal voters, who staged months of protests against Park before her ouster, will be hoping the verdict will be a watershed in efforts by the new government to end the self-serving collusion between political leaders and the powerful conglomerates known as chaebol.

Choi received a 20-year prison term in February for charges similar to Park's.

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The country's first female leader, who was also the first president to be impeached while in office, could appeal against the ruling within a week.

The court said Park solicited 7 billion won (6.6 million USA dollars) in kickback from the Lotte chairman in return for providing business favors.

He was initially sentenced to five years in prison for charges including bribery and embezzlement before his sentence was suspended on appeal. They waved South Korean and US flags and held signs that read, among other things, "Stop murderous political revenge!"

Park Geun Hye's lawyer has stated that he will be speaking to Park Geun Hye about filing an appeal, and will announce the decision later on. She was impeached by lawmakers that December and removed from office by a Constitutional Court ruling in March 2017. "Park has denied all charges against her and expressed no remorse or atonement - legally as well as politically - for what's probably the most shocking political scandal in our modern history", Jeong told AFP. But he's also remembered for imprisoning and torturing dissidents.

Park has previously insisted that she only got help from Choi on public relations and to edit some presidential speeches. In a subsequent presidential by-election triggered by Park's early exit, Moon won an easy victory against wounded conservatives.

Her conservative predecessor, Lee Myung-bak, who governed from 2008-2013, was arrested and jailed last month over a separate corruption scandal.

In 2009, former president Roh Moo-hyun killed himself while he was under investigation for corruption.

Two others, Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo, were convicted for treason and corruption in the 1990s.

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