Former President Park Geun-hye was detained early Friday after the court accepted the prosecution’s request to arrest her on multiple charges, including bribery, abuse of authority, coercion and leaking government secrets.
This came three weeks after Park was removed from office on March 10 in a historic impeachment ruling by the Constitutional Court and 10 days after she underwent lengthy prosecution questioning.
Park’s arrest was needed to “hedge the risk of Park fleeing or destroying evidence,” Judge Kang Bu-yeong of the Seoul Central District Court wrote in a ruling statement.
With the verdict, Park has become the third former South Korean President to be arrested — after Roh Tae-woo and Chun Doo-hwan who were imprisoned on corruption and mutiny charges in the mid-1990s.
Park, who was awaiting the ruling at a room of the Seoul Central Prosecutors’ Office, was taken to the Seoul Detention Center in Uiwang, Gyeonggi Province, soon after the decision was announced. Park — in prison garb — is expected to travel back and forth to the prosecutors’ office for additional questioning before being formally indicted.
Prosecutors suspect Park colluded with her longtime friend Choi Soon-sil to force dozens of local conglomerates to “donate” a total of 77.4 billion won ($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 43.4 billion won to Choi, and in effect to Park, as kickbacks in return for business favors. Of the total, 20.4 billion won went to the two foundations.
If convicted of the bribery charges, Park can be sentenced to 10 years or more in prison.
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 were arrested for their roles in creating and managing the list 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.
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.
During a marathon interrogation session at the prosecution on Tuesday last week, Park reportedly denied all allegations.