Supreme court ruling ends Park Geun-hye’s legal process, paving the way for a special presidential pardon.
South Korea’s highest court upheld a 20-year prison sentence for former President Park Geun-hye for bribes and other crimes as it closes landmark corruption case that marked a fall striking grace for the country’s first woman leader.
Thursday’s verdict put an end to court proceedings, paving the way for a presidential pardon, which his supporters have called for.
The daughter of army strongman Park Chung-hee, Park was convicted of colluding with her longtime confidante, Choi Soon-sil, for taking millions of dollars in bribes from some of the largest commercial groups in the country, including Samsung, between 2013 and 2016.
She was also charged with accepting monthly funds from her spy bosses which were embezzled from the agency’s budget.
Park became the first democratically elected leader of South Korea to be removed from office when, in 2017, the Constitutional Court upheld a parliamentary vote to impeach her over a scandal that also led to the heads of two conglomerates in prison.
His case has been heard in various courts, including a retrial in July last year, but the Supreme Court’s decision on Thursday upholding a 20-year prison sentence and a fine of 18 billion won (16, $ 38 million) is exhausting its legal channels.
Park, 68, who has been in jail since March 31, 2017, has denied the wrongdoing.
She has refused to attend her trials since October 2017 and did not attend Thursday’s ruling.
The end of the court process makes her eligible for a special presidential pardon, an imminent possibility as the country’s deeply divided electorate approaches the presidential election in March next year.
“President Park Geun-hye is innocent,” the right-wing Our Republican Party said in a statement.
“Members of Our Republican Party want President Park released as soon as possible.”
President Moon Jae-in has yet to directly address the possibility of releasing his predecessor.
At least one prominent member of Moon’s Democratic Party, Chairman Lee Nak-yon, has raised the idea of pardoning Park and another jailed former president, Lee Myung-bak, who is serving a 17-year term on his own charges of corruption, like a gesture. for “national unity”.
Society seems divided in the middle.
A poll conducted last week by pollster Realmeter found that 47.7% of respondents were in favor of a pardon and 48% against.
Samsung Electronics vice president Jay Y Lee faces a final court ruling Monday on whether to return to jail for bribing an associate of Park.