A South Korean court jailed former President Park Geun-hye for 24 years Friday over a scandal that exposed webs of corruption between political leaders and the country’s conglomerates.
South Korean National Assembly bows to 78% of population as President Park Geun-hye is impeached_
Billionaire smack down! Samsung heir, Lee Jae-yong, jailed 5 years in controversial bribery case that led to ouster South Korea’s former leader Park Geun-hye
Park, 66, was elected South Korea’s first female president in late 2012. She became South Korea’s first democratically elected leader to be forced from office last year when the Constitutional Court ordered her out over a scandal that landed the heads of two conglomerates in jail.
The court also fined Park, the daughter of a former military dictator, $16.9 million after finding her guilty of charges including bribery, abuse of power and coercion.
“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,” judge Kim Se-yoon said as he handed down the sentence.
Park, who was driven from office by massive and peaceful popular protests, was impeached late 2016, officially stripped of power in March 2017 and has been in a detention facility near Seoul since being arrested that same month on allegations that she colluded with a confidante, Choi Soon-sil, to extort from businesses, take bribes and commit other wrongdoing.
Graft collector: Choi Soon-sil, [wearing black hat], a cult leader’s daughter with a decades-long connection to President Park Geun-hye, arrested, at the Prosecutors’ Office in Seoul, South Korea, in Dec 2016
In April 2017, Park was indicted on the high-profile corruption charges that potentially could have sent her to jail for life. In the end, the court found Park guilty of colluding with her old friend Choi Soon-sil to receive about $6.56 million each from Lotte Group, a retail giant, and Samsung, the world’s biggest maker of smartphones and semiconductors, while demanding 8.9 billion won ($8.3 million) from SK, an energy conglomerate.
Most of the money was intended to bankroll nonprofit foundations run by Choi’s family and confidants, and to fund the education of Choi’s horse-riding daughter, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors sought a 30-year sentence and a $112 million fine for Park.
Park who has been in jail since March 31 last year, has denied wrongdoing and was not present in court.
Admonishing Park for having shown “no sign of repentance”while trying instead, to shift the blame to Choi and her secretaries, judge Kim Se-yoon said: “We cannot help but sternly hold her accountable,” adding “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,” judge Kim said as he handed down the sentence.
A portrait of Park Geun-hye is carried during a rally to call for her release in Seoul in August 2017
Park apologized while in office for seeking help from Choi, who had no policy or political experience, but that was as close as she came to admitting any guilt.
Kang Chul-koo, one of Park’s state-appointed lawyers, said he would discuss with her the possibility of an appeal.
“We tried our utmost but regret the result turned out very bad,” Kang told reporters at the court.
“The truth will be revealed one day.”
The sentence will be a bitter blow for Park, who returned to the presidential palace in 2012 as the country’s first woman leader, more than three decades after she left it following the assassination of her father.
Her ouster from office last year 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 neighbors.
Partners in graft: South Korean media depict Choi [background in white], as the force behind President Park [foreground]
Moon’s office said Park’s fate was “heartbreaking” not only for herself but for the country, and added that history that was not remembered would be repeated.
“We will not forget today,” the office said.
Park is the latest former leader of South Korea to run afoul of the law.
Two predecessors, Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo, were convicted in 1996 of mutiny, treason and corruption and sentenced to long prison terms, but both received presidential pardons and were freed after a couple of years.
Choi Soon-sil was convicted and jailed for 20 years after a separate trial in February.
Park’s friend Choi was convicted and jailed for 20 years after a separate trial in February.
The chairman of the Lotte Group, the country’s fifth-largest conglomerate, Shin Dong-bin, was jailed for two years and six months.
Samsung Group heir Jay Y. Lee was jailed for a similar term on charges of bribery and embezzlement, but in a surprise decision in February, an appeals court freed him after a year in detention.
Up to 1,000 Park supporters gathered outside the court, holding national flags and signs calling for an end to “political revenge” against her. Analysts say Park’s support base and opposition reflect divisions in a society still haunted by Cold War antagonism.
Lee In-won, Vice Chairman of Korean conglomorate, Lotte Group hangs himself as criminal probe heats up
Billionaire Samsung heir, Lee Jae-yong, was sentenced to five years in prison for bribery and other crimes related to president Park’s corruption scandal last year, but he was freed on appeal
Most supporters are older conservatives who remember her father’s authoritarian 18-year rule, beginning in 1961, when their country began its remarkable surge toward becoming an economic power.