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New wallpaper for Park’s jail cell

Apr 15,2017
The Ministry of Justice was criticized Friday after a local broadcaster reported that former President Park Geun-hye was given special treatment after she was taken into custody at the Seoul Detention Center as a criminal suspect.

CBS aired an exclusive report Friday that Park spent her first two days of detention in a night-duty room for guards instead of her own cell.

According to the report, which quoted sources from law enforcement authorities, Park refused to enter her single cell in solitary confinement when she was taken into custody on March 31 because it was too dirty.

The report said Park demanded new wallpaper, and the center complied. The process took two days, and Park was allowed to sleep in a night-duty room for guards, the report said.

Special treatment is a serious violation of the law governing inmates, the report said. According to Article 14 of the Administration and Treatment of Correctional Institution Inmates Act, prisoners are placed in non-solitary confinement only if the institution does not have enough solitary wards, or non-solitary confinement is necessary for protection of prisoners’ lives or bodies or their emotional stability.

Park, who took the presidential oath in February 2013, was impeached by the National Assembly in December 2016 for a series of suspected crimes she committed during her presidency.

The Constitutional Court upheld the impeachment in March 2017 and permanently removed her from office for having allowed her inner circle to secretly influence state affairs for their private gain.

After investigations by prosecutors and an independent counsel, a local court granted a warrant to detain Park on a series of charges including bribery and abuse of power.

The report prompted fierce criticism of the Ministry of Justice, which issued a press release Friday afternoon to explain Park’s treatment.

According to the ministry, Park spent two nights in the guards’ office because of work being done on her cell. The Seoul Detention Center put up a new wall and reconfigured the cell assigned to Park in order to prevent her having contact with other inmates based on the security protocols for the former president, the ministry said. Allowing her to sleep in the office was unavoidable, it said.

The ministry said the center allowed her to stay in the office because it was inappropriate to hold her in other cells due to the security protocols. She did not receive preferential treatment, the ministry said.

It added that Park did not complain about the cell’s condition.

The ministry admitted that it hung new wallpaper in her cell, but not at her demand.

Since 2013, no repairs were done on the cell, so the detention center improved the room based on its own judgment, the press release said. Meanwhile, the prosecution said it will probably indict Park on Monday. A source from a special investigation team said Park will remain in detention during her trial.

Prosecutors questioned Park in five rounds at the detention center over the past weeks. The prosecution has decided to keep her in custody throughout the indictment and trial process.

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]