South Korea has concluded the years of corruption saga as the country’s highest court has maintained the 20-year prison sentence of former President Park Geun-hye for bribery charges in 2018.
Guilty on several counts of abuse of power, bribery and coercion, the former President was first punished to 24 years in prison. Park’s charges have triggered vast protests in the country, involved South Korea’s key figures and witnessed the president kicked out from her post in 2017.
After a retrial in July, the former President’s 2018 sentence was reduced to 20 years. According to a press release, prosecutors have requested a stronger penalty but the country’s highest court, the Supreme Court, on Thursday said it will uphold Park’s 20-year imprisonment sentence.
The Supreme Court’s decision, being the highest court, is expected to close the former President’s legal possibilities to petition her sentence.
In total, Park will render 22 years behind bars. Apart from the 20-year jail term, she must also serve the two-year imprisonment for interfering in the selection of candidates for a conservative political party Saenuri in 2018.
“This is the conclusion of a state corruption affair which follows the people’s candlelight revolution, impeachment by the Assembly, and a judicial ruling. It is a manifestation of our democratic republic’s constitutional spirit and signifies advancement and maturity of Korean democracy,” the country’s presidential Blue House said in an official statement released Thursday. “We must make sure to take this unfortunate event — the imprisonment of the former President — as a historical lesson and avoid repeating it.”
The corruption scandal did not happen for the first time in South Korea, as it has been gripped by the same cases in the past years, under the term of the country’s first female president, Park Geun-hye. Park assumed office in 2013 and was also rocked by controversy in 2017.
The Constitutional Court maintained a parliamentary vote to impeach Park. While she became the first female president, she also became the first democratically elected leader to be powerfully eliminated from post.
Millions of South Koreans aired their sentiments in the streets during her term, demanding for her impeachment. The public uproar was triggered by revelations regarding the excessive influence used by Choi Soon-sil, her adviser and confidant.
Park was arrested and was subject for trial for allegations of gathering bribes from major conglomerates in the country, like Samsung. She was sent to a trial over other allegations that she obtained illegal money from the National intelligence Service.
Her confidant, Choi, also faced 20 years of jail term and was fined $16.6 million over 18 charges including coercion, fraud and bribe, and abuse of power.