Dirty deeds in high places nothing new to South Koreans

Dirty deeds in high places nothing new to South Koreans

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 she was driven from office and arrested over a corruption scandal that saw months of massive street rallies calling for her ouster.

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

Impeached by parliament in December 2016 and officially ousted from office in March 2017, Park has been held at a detention facility for about a year on a broad range of corruption charges.

The court found that Park, had colluded with her long-time friend Choi Soon-sil to solicit bribes from South Korean conglomerates, including Samsung.

Park became South Korea's first democratically elected leader to be forced from office past year when the Constitutional Court ordered her out over a scandal that landed the heads of two conglomerates in jail.

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.

Hundreds of Park's supporters gathered near the southern Seoul court hours before the ruling, swinging South Korean and United States flags under signs and banners that read, among other things, "Immediately release innocent President Park Geun-hye" and "Stop murderous political revenge".

The court noted that Park Geun Hye has denied the charges made against her and does not appear to be reflecting on her actions, and instead has passed the blame to others.

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.

Choi was convicted and jailed for 20 years after a separate trial in February.

Although the term was reduced to a suspended sentence on appeal, Lee - son of Samsung group boss Lee Kun-hee - spent nearly a year in jail.




The former South Korean leader has one week to appeal the ruling.

She was also convicted of forcing companies to sign lucrative deals with firms owned by Choi and donate gifts to Choi and her daughter.

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

But South Koreans are divided on the verdict.

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.

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. Kim's wife also received a prison term for bribing one of Park's top aides in return for business favours. But her relations with the Choi family have long haunted her political career. In a subsequent presidential by-election triggered by Park's early exit, Moon won an easy victory against wounded conservatives.

Among the other figures who were implicated in the scandal was Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong, who was initially sentenced to five years in jail last year.

Chun's successor, Roh Tae-woo, was also convicted of treason, mutiny and corruption in 1996 and jailed for more than 22 years but served just over two years before being released.

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

Park's successor described the sentencing as a "heartbreaking event" for both the nation and the ex-leader herself.

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