Impeached Former President of South Korea Park Geun Hye Sentenced to 24 Years for Corruption

This is how shadow governments should be dealt with in a democracy.

Disgraced former South Korean president Park Geun Hye has been sentenced to 24 years in prison for corruption stemming from revelations of influence peddling involving her closest confidant, and unelected advisor, Choi Soon Sil.

Park Geun Hye is the first South Korean elected leader to be ousted on corruption charges while in power and the third former president to be charged with corruption.

Prosecutors sought 30 years for South Korea’s first female leader as well as 118 billion KRW the equivalent to approximately 110 million USD.

The 66-year-old Park received 24 years just under the 30 years demanded by the prosecution and additionally was fined 18 billion KRW / 10 million USD.

The Verdict

The former conservative party leader was convicted on 16 of 18 charges

The summary the courts verdict are as follows.

  • Former President Park Geun-hye sentenced to 24 years' jail, fined 18 billion won on 16 charges.

  • Park convicted of 16 of 18 charges against her.

  • Park convicted of power abuse to extort money from companies to set up two non-profit foundations under her friend's control.

  • Park found guilty of pressing Hyundai Motor to sign a deal with KD Corporation, a company run by a close friend of Park's friend Choi Soon-sil.

  • Park acquitted of power abuse relating to forcing Hyundai Motor to run ads for Choi's company.

  • Park convicted of pressing Lotte Group to donate 7 billion won ($6.55 million) to the K-Sports Foundation, a non-profit foundation run by Choi.

  • Park found guilty of forcing telecom company KT to hire Choi's close friend and sign a deal with an ad company run by another of Choi's friends.

  • Park convicted of pressing steelmaker POSCO to sign a deal with The Blue K, a company run by Choi.

  • Park convicted of power abuse to extort 1.6 billion won from Samsung to fund a foundation under her friend's control.

  • Park convicted of an attempt to sack CJ Group vice chairwoman.

  • Park convicted of leaking 47 confidential presidential documents to Choi.

  • Lotte's 7 billion won donated to a foundation run by Park's friend was a bribe to Park. The money was sent to Choi, but given the Park-Choi relationship, the money is considered a bribe to Park via Choi.

  • Park convicted of pressing SK Group to donate 8.9 billion won to the K-Sports Foundation, a non-profit foundation run by Choi.

  • Park acquitted of forcing Samsung to fund 21.3 billion won for Choi's equestrian daughter.

  • Samsung's 3.64 billion won donation to Core Sports, a foundation run by Choi, was a bribe to Park given the Park-Choi relationship.

  • Park convicted of forcing Samsung to offer Choi's equestrian daughter free horses, cars and training material.

  • Park found guilty of power abuse for sacking ranking out-of-favor government officials.

  • Park acquitted of accepting illegal requests from Samsung over company's leadership succession.

  • Park convicted as a collaborator in the compilation of a "blacklist" of out-of-favor cultural figures and cutting state support for them.

  • Park convicted of power abuse over promotion of a Hana Bank official who provided inappropriate favors to Choi.

Korea Times

In handing down the sentence, presiding Chief judge Kim Se-Yun made these statements regarding the verdict.

“As the state chief chosen by the people, Park should have used her authority according to the Constitution. But she abused her power to maintain her private relationships”

“Her irregularities were unveiled, and she became the very first president to be impeached in South Korean history. And for that, Park and (her civilian friend) Choi Soon-sil, who used her ties with the president to meddle in state affairs for her own benefit, are responsible.”

The Korean Herald

Choi Soon Sil in Court facing bribery and extortion charges

Former South Korean President Lee Myung Park

Another former president of South Korea, Lee Myung Bak is presently in police custody on charges of corruption.

Lee was arrested March 22 on 12 charges, including bribery involving 11 billion won ($10 million) and embezzlement of 35 billion won.

Lee has been in custody for 2 weeks but has so far refused to cooperate with investigators. Lee and Park Geun Hye are close political allies and some in South Korea have openly speculated that their arrests, and conviction in the case of Park, can be traced back to animosity between them and South Korea’s current president Moon Jae-in.

The much-repeated suggestion by Lee and many right-wing politicians stemmed from a particularly close friendship between President Moon Jae-in and former President Roh Moo-hyun, who committed suicide during amid a prosecution investigation into alleged bribery involving his family members in May 2009, a year after Lee took office.

Korea Times

Park Geun Hye's co-conspirator Choi Soon Sil was sentenced to 20 years in prison this past February on charges of bribery, extortion and other related crimes.

The Korea Example

Perhaps western democracies should pay heed to the South Korean Justice system which seems to be carrying out justice according to the South Korea constitution. Political corruption had long plagued South Korean politics yet the recent arrests of high ranking officials, the impeachment of a sitting president and subsequent conviction and sentencing appears to demonstrate that Korean democracy has been able to hand down justice while their western counterparts seem to never be in danger of prosecution.

While the sentences of Choi and Park are historic and carry with them a warning for future South Korean politicians, the fact that executives of Korean corporations (chaebols - family run mega-conglomerates), in this case Samsung, Lotte and SK, avoided criminal charges in the matter takes some of the shine away from the achievement.

Nevertheless, Western democracies could learn a thing or two from the South Koreans in taken on corruption head-on. Equally, the active and prolonged mass protests of the South Korean people leading up to Park's impeachment should also serve to demonstrate the power of collective action to complacent citizens of western democracies.

Image Credits

Sputnik News
AL Jazeera
The Korean Herald
South China Morning Post
South China Morning Post 2

Additional Sources

The New York Times



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