Published: Fri, April 06, 2018
Global Media | By Jackie Banks

Former South Korean leader gets 24 years in prison

Former South Korean leader gets 24 years in prison

Choi is serving a 20-year prison term; Samsung executive Lee Jae-yong was initially sentenced to five years in prison before his sentence was suspended on appeal; and Lotte chairman Shin Dong-bin was given two-and-a-half years in prison.

Her brother was known as a drug addict, but Park, who never married and was not known to have any romantic dalliances, reemerged on the political stage in 1998, winning a seat in the conservative stronghold of Daegu in Korea's southeast.

The ex-president was also fined 18 billion won (US$16.8 million) - which was just a tenth of the amount requested by the prosecution.

At the time, Park had called the court's decision "political revenge".

The presiding judge of Seoul Central District Court gave Park, who has boycotted the trial since October and did not appear in the court, one week to decide on whether to appeal or not.

The sentence followed a trial lasting more than 10 months which ended with Park being found guilty on multiple criminal charges, including bribery and abuse of power.

The court accepted the prosecutors' argument that Park pressured top executives to donate tens of millions of dollars to foundations run by Choi.

Park was also convicted of running a blacklist of artists and filmmakers critical of her government.

But their relationship latterly came under intense public scrutiny and the charge is that Choi had undue influence over a nation's affairs through her connection with Park.

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Outside the court, hundreds of supporters of Park had gathered to watch the verdict on a large screen, waving Korean and USA flags and calling for the former president's release.

Prosecutors in February recommended a punishment of 118.5 billion won in fines in addition to a 30-year prison term.

But for the vast majority of Koreans, she has now been permanently disowned, and will go down in history not as the country's first woman president but the first democratically-elected leader to be forced from office.

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.

Weeks of massive anti-Park protests broke out after the media exposes, leading to Park's impeachment by parliament in December 2016.

During her father's 18-year rule, Park Geun-hye served as first lady after her mother was killed in an assassination attempt targeting her father in 1974.

Mr Moon's office issued a stark statement: "Today we all had a dry and bleak wind on our's heart breaking, not only from the point of view of a country but also a human's life".

Outside of the court, conservative civic group members gathered to protest against the court's ruling and demand the release of the former leader.

Three months later, the eight-member Constitutional Court then voted unanimously to remove her from office.

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