DISGRACED former South Korean president Park Geun-hye has been found guilty of abuse of power and coercion and sentenced to 24 years in jail, marking the end of a scandal that prompted widespread protests for her removal.
According to the Guardian, prosecutors sought a 30-year jail sentence and a US$112 million fine on charges that included bribery, abuse of power and coercion. In a rare move, the court in Seoul decided to broadcast her trial live, a move Park objected to.
Park’s was impeached last year after news of an information peddling scandal led to hundreds of thousands of South Koreans taking to the streets of the capital in protest in what has been dubbed the Candlelight Revolution.
The scandal exposed a network of bribes that entangled some of the country’s biggest names in business. The disgraced PM was found to have colluded with close friend Choi Soon-sil to solicit bribes from conglomerates including Samsung and retail giant Lotte in exchange for policy favours.
The court accepted the prosecutors’ argument that Park pressured top executives to donate tens of millions of dollars to foundations run by Choi. She was also accused of leaking classified information.
Choi, a pastor’s daughter, had no government experience but was described in a US diplomatic cable as having “complete control over Park’s body and soul during her formative years”. Choi’s influence over the president led one opposition lawmaker to describe Park’s government as “a scary theocracy.”
Despite the scandal, Park still has a loyal following of supporters in South Korea, some of whom showed up outside the courtroom Friday to show their support.
Park’s predecessor, Lee Myung-bak, is also facing corruption charges and is accused of a host of crimes ranging from bribery to abuse of power to embezzlement and tax evasion.