Prose­cu­tors: Ex-South Korean pres­i­dent de­serves 30 years in jail

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - WORLD - BY KIM TONG-HYUNG

SEOUL, South Ko­rea — Prose­cu­tors on Tues­day de­manded a 30-year prison term for for­mer South Korean Pres­i­dent Park Geun-hye for al­leged bribery, abuse of power and other crimes in a land­mark cor­rup­tion case that marked a stun­ning fall from grace for the coun­try’s first fe­male leader and con­ser­va­tive icon.

In the fi­nal trial ses­sion be­fore a ver­dict is is­sued, prose­cu­tors also de­manded a fine of $110 mil­lion and said Park has shown no re­morse for “dis­rupt­ing con­sti­tu­tional or­der and dam­ag­ing the pub­lic’s trust in state power.”

Park did not at­tend the ses­sion at the Seoul Cen­tral Dis­trict Court, which will is­sue its ver­dict April 6 — 11 months af­ter the trial be­gan.

“The de­fen­dant thor­oughly de­stroyed the dreams and hope of peo­ple — this in­ci­dent left a per­ma­nent scar in South Korean his­tory and yet it also pro­vided the op­por­tu­nity for peo­ple to re­store democ­racy and rule of law with their own hands,” pros­e­cu­tor Jeon Jun-cheol told the court, ac­cord­ing to a pool re­port.

“A stern pun­ish­ment by the court is needed to send a mes­sage to the pub­lic and politi­cians that the tragic his­tory should not be re­peated,” he said.

If the court finds her guilty, Park would be the third South Korean pres­i­dent con­victed of crimes. The oth­ers were for­mer mil­i­tary gen­er­als in­volved in a 1979 coup and a 1980 civil­ian mas­sacre.

Park has been boy­cotting the court ses­sions since Oc­to­ber in protest of its de­ci­sion to ex­tend her de­ten­tion by an­other six months. Park’s lawyers then re­signed en masse and she has re­port­edly been re­fus­ing to meet with state-ap­pointed lawyers who have since been de­fend­ing her in court.

On Tues­day, Park’s lawyers ar­gued the prose­cu­tors have been un­able to fully prove their charges against Park. They said it’s un­clear whether the com­pa­nies were pres­sured into pro­vid­ing money to foun­da­tions con­trolled by Park’s close con­fi­dante or whether the pay­ments were linked to spe­cific busi­ness fa­vors.

“The pres­i­dent did not threaten the com­pa­nies and the com­pa­nies weren’t vic­tims who paid money be­cause they were scared,” said lawyer Park Se­ung­gil. He said busi­nesses will al­ways try to main­tain a friendly re­la­tion­ship with the gov­ern­ment even when they aren’t seek­ing some­thing def­i­nite in re­turn.

“To put it in a bad way, it could be de­scribed as a close and cozy re­la­tion­ship be­tween gov­ern­ment and busi­ness. But while it would be sim­ple for ev­ery­one if we could de­fine what hap­pened as bribery or ex­tor­tion or both, the whole body of truth isn’t clear-cut,” he said.

Park has con­tin­u­ously de­nied any wrong­do­ing, and she is ex­pected to ap­peal if con­victed.

The court could force Park to at­tend her ver­dict. As usual in South Korean crim­i­nal tri­als, the court can set a new date for the rul­ing if she doesn’t show up and take steps to sum­mon her, in­clud­ing is­su­ing an ar­rest war­rant, if she re­fuses to ap­pear for the sec­ond time. Some le­gal ex­perts said the court could also di­rectly is­sue a ver­dict with­out her pres­ence in court.

Fol­low­ing mas­sive protests by mil­lions and im­peach­ment by law­mak­ers in De­cem­ber 2016, Park was for­mally re­moved from of­fice and ar­rested in March last year amid al­le­ga­tions she col­luded with long­time friend Choi Soon­sil to take tens of mil­lions of dol­lars from com­pa­nies in bribes and through ex­tor­tion. The court sen­tenced Choi to 20 years in prison ear­lier this month, and more se­vere pun­ish­ment was ex­pected for Park.

Cur­rent South Korean Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in, who took of­fice last May in a by-elec­tion, has said he won’t use his pow­ers to par­don Park.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.