- Former South Korean President has been arrest on various charges which led to her impeachment three months ago.
- Park has been accused of bribery, abuse of authority, coercion and leaking government secrets.
- She may receive over 10 years in prison if found guilty.
- Park has become the third out of 11 South Korean Presidents in total to be arrested.
Park Geun-hye, South Korea’s former President, who was impeached and ousted from her post earlier in March, has now been arrested over the corruption scandal that led to her removal.
Having assumed office in February 2013, Park Geun-hye was the first female President of South of Korea, and the East Asian nation’s 11th President overall. She also became South Korea’s first head of state to be removed from office.
On March 10, South Korea’s Constitutional Court confirmed the authenticity of the accusations against Park that led to her impeachment on December 9, 2016.
Park was found to have let a close friend, Choi Soon-sil, who held no government posts, interfere with state affairs, and conspired with her to extort money from businesses.
Choi’s meddling in state affairs was extensive throughout Park’s term, and the President even tried to hide her wrongdoings when the corruption scandal was exposed.
The Seoul Central District Court issued on Thursday a warrant to detain Park on charges of bribery, abuse of authority, coercion and leaking government secrets, after a marathon hearing the previous day, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.
Park has thus become South Korea’s third former President to be arrested over criminal allegations, following Roh Tae-woo and Chun Doo-hwan.
“The need for her arrest is acknowledged because there is probable cause to charge her and a concern of evidence being destroyed,” Judge Kang Boo-young said.
Following the decision, Park was transferred to a detention center south of Seoul from the prosecution’s office where she had been waiting for the result after the nearly nine-hour court hearing.
The detention center is where key figures embroiled in the scandal, including Park’s longtime friend Choi Soon-sil and Samsung’s de facto leader Lee Jae-yong, are held in custody.
The arrest warrant is valid for 20 days, and South Korean prosecutors are expected to level formal charges against Park by mid-April before the period expires.
The former president declined to comment on any of the questions asked by reporters as she left the courthouse at 7:30 pm on Thursday, having also remained silent when she arrived at the courtouse in the morning.
South Korea’s prosecutors suspect Park colluded with Choi to force dozens of local conglomerates to “donate” a total of KRW 77.4 billion (USD 70 million) to two dubious foundations – Mir and K-Sports – allegedly controlled by Choi.
Samsung’s de facto leader, Lee Jae-yong, was arrested for giving or promising some KRW 43.4 billion to Choi, and in effect to Park, as kickbacks in return for business favors. KRW 20.4 billion of those went to the two foundations.
If convicted of the bribery charges, Park could be sentenced to over 10 years in prison.
She is also accused of unlawfully intervening in the corporate management of conglomerates, including Hyundai Motor, POSCO and KT, by pressuring them into signing contracts with Choi’s firms.
Park is also accused of involvement in blacklisting cultural figures deemed critical of her policies and prohibiting government agencies from providing financial support to them.
Her former close aides have been arrested for their roles in creating and managing the blacklist of more than 9,000 artists, writers, filmmakers and entertainment figures.
Prosecutors suspect that the former president abused her power by pressuring her aides to sack culture ministry officials who resisted discriminatory measures against those on the blacklist.
Park is reported to have denied all accusations against her.