SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA : Former South Korean President Park Geun-hye was formally convicted and sentenced to 24 years in prison on Friday, a year after being deported from office and arrested for a corruption scandal that saw months of massive street rallies calling for her appearance.
The belief that she can appeal is the last hit in a dramatic fall for the first female president in South Korea. As soon as they saw her as a South Korean conservative, she was called “Queen Election” by her local media for her success, which led her to victory in tight races, and still has a small group of bitter supporters who regularly hold a rally.
Park claims he is the victim of “political revenge,” and has been refusing to attend court hearings since October. She did not attend the fifth verdict and cited a disease that was not publicly established.
In a nationwide verdict, the Soul District Court condemned the Park for bribery, blackmail, misuse of power, and other allegations. “It is inevitable that the accused should be strictly responsible for her crimes to prevent an unfortunate event (the president) abusing the power of the people and causing chaos in state affairs,” said Chief Justice Kim Seyun.
Together with the imprisonment, Park was also fined 18 billion won ($ 16.8 million), Kim said.
Park and prosecutors have one week’s appeal. The park had preserved her innocence before; prosecutors in February demanded 30 years in prison.
President Park Geun-hye
The Soul Court has condemned Park for agreeing with long-time confidant Choi Soon-silem and exerting pressure on 18 business groups to donate a total of 77.4 billion won ($ 72.3 million) to launch two Choi-led foundations. Two women were also convicted for bribes from some companies, including Samsung, over 7 billion profits ($ 6.5 million), in exchange for government support for smooth management.
The court said the Park had agreed with senior government officials on a blacklist of critics criticizing the Park’s government to reject their state aid programs. The park was also convicted of forwarding presidential documents with sensitive information to Choi through one of its presidential advisers.
The scandal has already led to the arrest, prosecution and conviction of dozens of senior government officials and executives. Choi serves 20 years in prison; Samsung scion Lee Jae-yong was originally sentenced to five years in prison before his sentence was suspended on appeal; and President Lotte Shin Dong-bin received 2½ years in prison.
Hundreds of Park supporters gathered at a court in Seoul for hours before the decision, under the banners of South Korea and the US under inscriptions and banners, which read, among other things, “Instantly release the innocent President Geun-hye” and “Stop a murderous political revenge.”
“Long live President Geun-hye! Long live the Republic of Korea!” Protestant Choi Hyung-suk shouted into the microphone and referred to South Korea with his formal name.
Park conservative supporters, most of whom were middle-aged and older, had been passionately gathering last year at the courtyard and other parts of the city, although their gatherings were much smaller than the earlier ones that required Park’s release. Protests show how deep South Koreans are divided along ideological and generation lines, a result of a decade of long tension with rival North Korea and a persistent fallout from conservative military dictatorships that led the country until the late 1980s.
Park is the daughter of a deeply divorcing dictator, Park Chung-hee, who is adored by supporters as a hero in the 1960s that led to rapid economic growth in South Korea. But he also remembered the imprisonment and torture of dissidents.
Mrs Geun-hye served as the first lady
During her eighteen-year paternity Mrs Geun-hye served as the first lady after her mother was killed in an assassination attempt on her father in 1974. She left the presidential mansion in 1979 after her father was shot dead by her own intelligence chief during the late night drink.
After years of isolation, Park Geun-hye returned to politics by gaining a parliamentary seat at the end of the 1990s, at a time when the father after the South Korean economy had destroyed the foreign exchange crisis. In 2012, she won the presidential election by defeating her liberal rival and current President Moon Jae-Ina, and a wave of support for the Conservatives who wanted to see that she was re-charismatic reviving her father.
Park’s friendship with Choi, 61, began in the mid-1970s when Choi’s late father served as a Park mentor after her mother’s assassination. Park first described Choi as someone who helped her when she was in trouble. But her relationship with the Choi family has long been pursuing her political career. Media reports indicate that Choi’s father was a cult leader and allegedly used his ties to Park to bribes from government officials and entrepreneurs.
Park has previously insisted that she only received help from Choi in public relations and edited some presidential speeches.
Park four years in office have been frustrated by growing displeasure with North Korea over its advanced nuclear program, a tragedy in 2014 that killed more than 300 people, mostly teenagers on a school trip and criticism that it restricted freedom of speech and failed to translate things transparently.
The last scandal touched the month of the Saturday rallies, during which millions gathered in Seoul Square and elsewhere across the country and called for her exclusion. The park was accused by lawmakers in December 2016 and removed from office by the Constitutional Court’s decision in March 2017. In the subsequent presidential elections triggered by Park’s early departure, Moon gained an easy victory against injured conservatives.
Park’s Saga is only the last increment of a long line of South Korean presidential references.
Her conservative predecessor, Lee Myung-bak, who ran from 2008 to 2013, was arrested last month and jailed for another corruption scandal. Lee’s liberal successor, Roh Moo-hyum, jumped to his death in 2009 amid investigations into his family’s corruption.
Chung-hee successors, Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo, former army generals, spent time in jail for bribery, betrayal, indictment, and other accusations after leaving the office. Kim Young-sam and Kim Dae-jung, former opposition leaders who fought the dictatorships of Chung-hee and Chun Park, left the office on the headland after their sons and close associates were arrested or involved in scandals.