Former South Korea president Park jailed for 24 years

Delia Walker
April 7, 2018

According to Tribune, she was also fined $16m. "Her fines were calculated based on the laws she has violated".

She was also accused of soliciting bribes from the head of the Samsung Group for government favours. "The President abused the power which was given to her by the citizens", the judge said, adding a tough sentence was needed to send a firm message to the country's future leaders. It also acknowledged 7 billion won as kickbacks provided by retail giant Lotte to Choi's nonprofit foundation.

She has consistently denied wrongdoing. She was found guilty of abuse of power, coercion, fraud and bribery.

Most of the money was meant to bankroll non-profit foundations run by Choi's family and confidants, and to fund the education of Choi's horse-riding daughter, the court said. The court said she leaked at least 14 state secrets to Choi.

Choi, the daughter of a cult leader once accused of having "complete control over Park's body and soul during her formative years", held no political office but is accused of using her influence over the President to funnel money to organizations she controlled and get her daughter a place at an elite university.

The fact that she never married or had children was part of her appeal, given the nepotistic tendencies of many senior officials.

Judge Kim Se-yoon said Park had shown "no sign of repentance", and had instead pinned the blame on Choi. But her presidency was controversial from the start, dogged by admissions that the country's spy agency flooded social media channels in the final days of the presidential election to help her to victory. Park objected to the decision citing the violation of the innocence presumption, but the court said it allowed the live broadcasting for the trial's significance, historical meaning and people's right to know. "However, considering that the entire population of South Korea is affected by her crime, this seemingly heavy sentence is actually reasonable".

The wide-ranging corruption scandal exposed shady links between big business and politics in South Korea, prompting massive street protests against Park a year ago. Friday's sentence is the latest in Park's fall from power after she was ousted in February 2017, clearing the way for liberal South Korean President Moon Jae-in to take power in the vacuum.

The most deeply involved was Samsung, South Korea's largest conglomerate.

The former president's prison sentence is four years longer than that of Choi Soon Sil, who was sentenced with 20 years in prison.

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.

"It's against fairness and justice if Park is to be released only serving her jail terms for two years while the people who colluded with still in prison", said Park of Minbyun.

Weeks later, Park, in handcuffs, is brought to the Seoul Central District Court for the opening of her criminal trial.

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