Park Geun-hye bags 25 years in prison for bribery and abuse of presidential power


A court in South Korea has sentenced the impeached-and-ousted president, Park Geun-hye, to 25 years behind bars.


Image: Park Geun-hye

Geun-hye’s ruling was announced by an appeal court on Friday. The former president of South Korea was convicted of collecting bribes to bend the law for Samsung, the Asian country’s largest multinational corporation.

According to the New York Post, Geun-hye collected more bribes from the conglomerate than previously estimated by investigators.

The 66-year-old has been in jail since 2017. Her earlier sentence was 24 years in jail after a lower court found her guilty of extortion, bribery, abuse of power, and other criminal offences. She was ordered to pay back $16 million in fines.

However, on Friday, an appeal court in Seoul overturned the earlier ruling to 25 years in prison, with an order to pay an estimated $18 million. The court noted that Ms. Park’s illegal deals with Samsung was “more expansive” than the lower court had concluded.

Although Ms. Park’s trial will mostly demand attention from the Supreme Court, the final verdict offers no glimpse of a lighter sentencing.

Geun-hye’s problems started in 2016, when thousands of concerned South Korean citizens took to the streets for a few months of weekly rallies around Seoul, demanding the leader’s impeachment and trial.

In December 2016, South Korea’s National Assembly laid charges of bribery and abuse of presidential power. Guen-hye was eventually ousted from office. The impeachment process was completed in March 2017, making her the first leader in the Asian country to be removed from office through parliamentary impeachment.

A Constitutional Court upheld the lawmakers’ decision following a consensus in the Senate.

Guen-hye, daughter of former military dictator Park Chung-hee, gives an insight into some illegal business deals between powerful politicians and the huge family-controlled conglomerates known as “Chaebol.”

Choi Soon-sil, a friend and confidant to the imprisoned South Korean leader, reportedly collected or demanded around $25m as bribe from three business outfits, including Samsung, which offered her an estimated $9.5m until Friday’s ruling revealed the tech company actually paid around $10.7 million.

Nonetheless, Samsung’s involvement with the indicted persons was intended to help win government support for Samsung’s vice chairman, Lee Jae-yong, who wanted to inherit management control from his father, Lee Kun-hee (the company’s chairman).

Although Lee Jae-yong is seriously ill at this time, the court ruling on Friday will most likely have legal implications for him. He remains the de facto head of Samsung, as his father is also undergoing medical treatment.

Mr. Lee Jae-yong got a 5-year sentence last August for offering bribes to Ms. Park and her bosom friend Ms. Choi. In February 2018, the court, however, cut his prison sentence in after noting that the amount he offered as bribes ($5.6m) was smaller. Judges in Ms. Park’s case disagree with the decision, NY Post added.