Published: Tue, April 18, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

Former South Korean president indicted for bribary, faces possible life sentence

Park Geun-hye, the former President of South Korea, was indicted on Monday on charges alleging she conspired with a confident to extort money from businesses and take bribes.

South Korean prosecutors brought charges Monday that range from bribery and coercion to abuse of power and the leaking of government secrets.

Former President Park Geun-hye arrives at a detention center in Uiwang, south of Seoul, in a vehicle on March 31, 2017, after a court issued a warrant to arrest her in connection with a corruption scandal that led to her removal from office. It is unclear if the trial will be under way before 9 May when a special election will be held to determine her successor.

Woo Byung-woo, senior presidential secretary for civil affairs from 2015 to 2016, was also indicted without detention for allegedly abusing authority and neglecting his duty in preventing Choi from meddling in state affairs.

Her indictment marks the latest episode in a remarkable fall from grace for the first woman to reach the highest office in South Korea.

The prosecutors' probe has already convulsed the country's biggest conglomerate, Samsung Group, with its chief Jay Y. Lee under arrest for bribing Park and her friend, Choi Soon-sil.

She faces decades in prison if convicted, unless she is pardoned, as other former leaders have been previously. The judges will then announce a date for the first hearing in what is believed to be the biggest court trial in the country, whose political landscape has been marred by the corruption scandal. She was impeached by parliament in December after months of public protests.

Park and Choi were also charged with taking bribes from two of the business groups, Samsung and Lotte, and colluding with other top officials to blacklist artists critical of Park's government to deny them state support. Additional bribery charges were also made against Choi, now undergoing her own trial.

Park is also accused of offering policy favours to top businessmen who enriched Choi, including Samsung heir Lee Jae-Yong who was arrested earlier and is also on trial for bribery.

The scandal also shed light on her questionable, decades-long ties to Choi and Choi's father, a shady religious figure who wielded huge influence on Park from the 1970s until his death in 1994.

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