South Korean ex-pres­i­dent jailed in cor­rup­tion case

Pros­e­cu­tors have 20 days to charge im­peached leader.

Austin American-Statesman - - MORE OF TODAY’S TOP NEWS - By Hyung-Jin Kim

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA — South Korea’s dis­graced for­mer Pres­i­dent Park Geun-hye was ar­rested and jailed Fri­day over high-pro­file cor­rup­tion al­le­ga­tions that al­ready ended her tu­mul­tuous fouryear rule and prompted an elec­tion to find her suc­ces­sor.

A con­voy of ve­hi­cles, in­clud­ing a black sedan car­ry­ing Park, en­tered a de­ten­tion fa­cil­ity near Seoul af­ter the Seoul Cen­tral Dis­trict Court granted pros­e­cu­tors’ re­quest to ar­rest her.

Many Park sup­port­ers waved na­tional flags and shouted “pres­i­dent” as Park’s car en­tered the fa­cil­ity.

Pros­e­cu­tors can de­tain her for up to 20 days be­fore for­mally charg­ing her, mean­ing she will likely be in jail while her case is heard. A dis­trict court nor­mally is­sues a rul­ing within six months of an in­dict­ment.

The Seoul court’s de­ci­sion is yet an­other hu­mil­i­a­tion for Park. South Korea’s first female pres­i­dent was elected in 2012 amid over­whelm­ing sup­port from con­ser­va­tives who re­vere her dic­ta­tor fa­ther as a hero for lift­ing the coun­try from poverty in the 1960s and 1970s, though he also ac­cu­mu­lated a record of se­vere hu­man rights abuses.

Pros­e­cu­tors ac­cuse Park of col­lud­ing with a con­fi­dante to ex­tort big busi­nesses, take a bribe from one of the com­pa­nies and com­mit other wrong­do­ing.

The al­le­ga­tions led mil­lions of South Kore­ans to protest in the streets ev­ery week­end for months be­fore law­mak­ers im­peached her in De­cem­ber and the Con­sti­tu­tional Court ruled in March to for­mally re­move her from of­fice.

It made Park the coun­try’s first demo­crat­i­cally elected leader to be forced from of­fice since democ­racy ar­rived here in the late 1980s. South Korea will hold an elec­tion in May to choose Park’s suc­ces­sor. Opin­ion sur­veys say lib­eral op­po­si­tion leader Moon Jae-in, who lost the 2012 elec­tion to Park, is the fa­vorite.

Pros­e­cu­tors could have charged Park with­out ar­rest­ing her. But they said they wanted to de­tain her be­cause the al­le­ga­tions against her are “grave” and be­cause other sus­pects in­volved in the scan­dal, in­clud­ing her con­fi­dante Choi Soo-si and Sam­sung heir Lee Jae-yong, have al­ready been ar­rested.

The Seoul court said it de­cided to ap­prove Park’s ar­rest be­cause it be­lieves key al­le­ga­tions against her were con­firmed and there were wor­ries that she might try to destroy ev­i­dence.

A day ear­lier, Park was ques­tioned at a court hear­ing for nearly nine hours. As she left for the hear­ing, hun­dreds of her sup­port­ers, many of them el­derly cit­i­zens, gath­ered at her pri­vate Seoul home.

They wept, chanted slo­gans and tried to block Park’s car be­fore be­ing pushed back by po­lice.

In the com­ing weeks, pros­e­cu­tors are ex­pected to for­mally charge Park with ex­tor­tion, bribery and abuse of power. Her bribery con­vic­tion alone is pun­ish­able by the min­i­mum 10 years in pri­son and the max­i­mum life imprisonment in South Korea.

Park and Choi deny most of the al­le­ga­tions. Park has said she only let Choi edit some of her pres­i­den­tial speeches and got her help on “pub­lic re­la­tions” is­sues. Choi made sim­i­lar state­ments.

CHUNG SUNG-JUN / GETTY IM­AGES

Left: Po­lice of­fi­cers scuf­fle out­side Park’s home in Seoul with protesters de­mand­ing her ar­rest Thurs­day. Park was jailed on Fri­day.

AHN YOUNG-JOON / AP

Above: Ousted South Korean Pres­i­dent Park Geun-hye ar­rives for a court hear­ing Thurs­day.

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