Ousted South Korean president Park Geun-hye sentenced to 24 years in prison

By @chelean on
South Korean ousted leader Park Geun-hye arrives at a court in Seoul, South Korea, August 25, 2017.
South Korean ousted leader Park Geun-hye arrives at a court in Seoul, South Korea, August 25, 2017. Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji

Ousted South Korean president Park Geun-hye has been sentenced to 24 years in jail. The former most powerful woman in East Asia was found guilty on multiple counts of abuse of power, bribery, leaking government secrets and coercion on Friday.

The Seoul Central District Court found her guilty on 16 out of 18 charges. The court agreed that Park planned an elaborate extortion scheme with a confidant, Choi Soon-sil. The charges included a 43.4 billion won (AU$53.12 million) bribe from Samsung, whose de facto leader Lee Jae-yong was jailed for promising the amount to Choi as kickbacks in return for business favours.

Park, 66, was sentenced to 24 years in jail and fined 18 billion won (AU$22 million). She was not present in court during the sentencing, claiming she was too ill to attend. Her lawyers are expected to appeal.

“The president abused the power which was given to her by the citizens,” lead judge Kim Se-yoon said, adding that Park did not appear to be remorseful for what she had done. The court proceeding had been broadcast live on television for the first time since a law allowing broadcasts was passed last year.

The disgraced president was arrested on March 31, 2017, just weeks after she was removed from office and 10 days after she underwent prosecution questioning. Prosecutors suspected that she colluded with Choi to force local companies to donate a total of 77.4 billion won (AU$94.7 million) to two dubious foundations controlled by Choi.

Choi, the daughter of a South Korean cult leader, was sentenced to 20 years in jail on 18 charges in February. She was found guilty of abuse of power, coercion, fraud and bribery. She was also ordered to pay 18 billion won.

Park was the first female president of the country and is the first president to be impeached. She was ousted from office in December 2016 when she was impeached by the National Assembly. Her impeachment was upheld by the Constitutional Court in March 2017.