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Former President Park gets 24 years in prison

Apr 06,2018
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[YONHAP]
Former President Park Geun-hye was sentenced to 24 years in prison and fined 18 billion won ($16.8 million) on Friday, after a Seoul court found her guilty of 16 charges of corruption and power abuse.

“Park, in conspiring with Choi Seo-won, better known by her former name Choi Soon-sil, requested and received bribes worth over 23 billion won,” said Judge Kim Se-yoon of the Seoul Central District Court. “When a culprit receives a bribe worth more than 100 million won, he or she can be sentenced to life or to more than 10 years. Her fines were calculated based on the laws she has violated.”

Of the 18 charges of corruption and power abuse the prosecution had levied against Park, who did not attend the sentencing, the court found her guilty of 16. They include forcing conglomerates to contribute 77.4 billion won to two non-profit foundations Choi controlled.

The court said she is also guilty of receiving bribes worth 7.2 billion won from Samsung Group, though it cannot determine how much she kept for herself.

Park was also found guilty of abusing her power by blacklisting artists and cultural figures critical of her administration and exercising undue influence in the appointment of civil servants. She was also found guilty of ordering an aide to leak government secrets to Choi.

“Park abused the power given to her by the people of the country and conspired with Choi to demand bribes from companies and meddle in their business decisions,” Kim said. “She abused her power as the president and received 14 billion won worth of bribes from Samsung and Lotte, and requested 8.9 billion won from SK Group.

“She additionally blacklisted cultural figures based on their political leanings,” Kim said. “When her crimes came into light one by one, it threw the country into confusion. She has to take heavy responsibility to make sure these misdeeds are not repeated.”

Park’s verdict, which lasted nearly two hours, was broadcast, the first time that the verdict in a criminal case has been aired live in Korea. Though she filed an injunction requesting that only a section of the hearing be broadcast, the court dismissed it. The court earlier cited the public’s need to know about the high-profile case as the reason for allowing a live broadcast of the hearing.

Park, impeached in December 2016 and formally removed from office in March 2017, was indicted last April on 18 charges of corruption and power abuse.

Prosecutors in February recommended a punishment of 118.5 billion won in fines in addition to a 30-year prison term. In February, her confidante Choi was sentenced to 20 years in jail and fined 18 billion won in her trial for power abuse and bribery.

BY ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]