SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – South Korea’s Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a 20-year prison sentence for former President Park Geun-hye over bribery and other crimes as it ended a landmark corruption case Which was a notable decline for the country. First female leader and conservative icon.
The ruling means Park, who was removed from the post in 2017 and after a separate conviction for illegally mediating his party’s candidate nomination before parliamentary elections in 2016, potentially behind bars for 22 years. Could serve.
But even finalizing his prison term makes him eligible for a special presidential term, a likely possibility as the country’s deeply divided voter will enter the next presidential election in March 2022.
President Moon Jae-in, a liberal who won the presidential by-election after Park’s expulsion, has not yet directly addressed the possibility of freeing his predecessor. Moon has recently seen his approval ratings rise to new lows on economic problems, political scandals and growing coronovirus infections.
Many conservative politicians called for Moon to release Park and another convicted former president Lee Myung-bak, who was serving a 17-year sentence on his corruption charges. At least one prominent member of Moon’s Democratic Party, Lee Nak-yeon, has supported the idea of pardoning former presidents as a sign of “national unity”.
Park, 68, described himself as a victim of political revenge. She refused to participate in her trials since October 2017 and did not attend Thursday’s ruling. Her lawyer did not return calls seeking comment.
The fall of Park and Lee Myung-bak dragged South Korea’s decades-old presidency badly, criticizing that the country has too much power that is easily misused and often uncontrolled in the hands of elected leaders She goes.
Nearly every former president, or his family members and associates, has been engulfed in scandals at the end of his terms or after he leaves office.
Park Chung-hee, a president, Park’s dictator father, was assassinated in 1979 by his detective chief. Another former president, Ro Moo-hyun, Moon’s longtime friend and political guru, was accused of his death in 2009 by members of his family. During the President takes a bribe from a businessman.
Moon spokesman Kang Min-seok said the ruling on Park Geun-hye marked the “maturity and growth” of South Korea’s democracy, but said a former president’s imprisonment on crimes is an “unfortunate” history that has not been repeated. should go . Presidential officials avoided specific answers when asked about Moon Pardoning Park and the possibility of Lee.
Democratic Party spokesman Shin Young-dee asked Park to issue an apology over the “shameful shame” left for the country’s history.
Park was convicted for collusion with his long-time confidant, Choi Soon-siel, receiving millions of dollars in bribes and extortion from some of the nation’s largest business groups, including Samsung, while he ran from 2013 to 2016 Was in the post.
He was also charged with illegally accepting monthly money from his intelligence chiefs, which was dropped from the agency’s budget.
After weeks of protests, Park was impeached by lawmakers in December 2016 and was officially removed from office in March 2017 after the Constitutional Court upheld the impeachment.
It was not immediately clear how the legal saga of billionaire Samsung Skene Lee Jae-yong would be affected by Thursday’s decision. The 52-year-old vice president of Samsung Electronics is facing a ruling in Seoul High Court next week in which he bribed Park and Choi to garner government support for the 2015 merger between Samsung and the two affiliates. , Which helped to consolidate their control. On the largest trade group in the country.
Prosecutors are seeking a nine-year prison sentence for Lee, who has been separately charged with charges of stock price manipulation, breach of trust and audit violations in connection with the merger. Lee’s lawyers described him as a victim of presidential abuse and described the 2015 deal as part of “normal business activity”.
Choi is currently serving an 18-year prison sentence.
Park originally faced a prison sentence of more than 30 years, before the Supreme Court sent his cases back to the lower court in 2019.
He was sentenced to 25 years in 2018 by the Seoul High Court after reviewing bribery, extortion, abuse of power and other offenses simultaneously.
But the Supreme Court in October 2019 ordered the Seoul High Court to also charge cases involving a president or other elected officials, while accusing Park of bribery from other charges, based on the law required to commit the alleged crimes together. Must be dealt with separately.
The High Court had in July 2019 sentenced Park to five years on charges of espionage funds, but the Supreme Court ordered a reconsideration of the case in November, directing the lower court to broadly accuse him of loss in state funds was given. .
The Seoul High Court appealed to prosecutors after Parks was given a 20-year term in July last year after the merger of the two cases.
If Park fully commits his sentence, he will be released in 2039 at the age of 87.