Former President of South Korea Indicted, to Face Trial


Former South Korean president Guen-Hye Park [BBC profile] was indicted on numerous corruption charges including extortion, abuse of power, and bribery on Monday.

Park, 65, was charged with colluding with her longtime confidante Choi Soon-sil to receive tens of millions of USA dollars in bribes from Samsung Group and Lotte Group, while demanding millions dollars from SK Group. Prosecutors argued conversely, stating that the "donations" were bribes used to sway government support during a 2015 merger of two Samsung affiliates.

The two were also charged with collecting $38 million in bribes or promised bribes from Samsung.

On March 10, the South Korean Constitutional Court upheld the December 2016 parliamentary decision to impeach Park over a corruption scandal involving Choi, who allegedly was allowed to meddle in state affairs without holding any official post. He joins Lee Jae-yong, the heir to the Samsung business empire, who was indicted at the end of February.

If found guilty, Park could spend the rest of her life in prison.

The scandal prompted millions to take to the street for weeks calling for the ousting of the conservative president.

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The indictment, a widely expected follow-up to Park's arrest, will prompt the Seoul Central District Court to open a trial.

It is unclear if Park's trial period will begin before May 9's special election day that will determine who will replace her as South Korea's president. Impeached by lawmakers late past year and officially removed from office by the country's high court last month, the former leader now faces the prospect of life in prison.

Prosecutors and an independent counsel indicted no fewer than 42 suspects in the scandal, including Choi and former Park aides An Chong-bum and Kim Ki-choon, whose trial has been going on for months already. Shin allegedly offered seven billion won (€5.17 million) to a sports foundation linked with Choi in exchange for a policy favour from Park over Lotte's duty-free business.

Such rallies could pressure whoever becomes her successor at a time when South Korea also faces increasing North Korean nuclear threats and diverse economic woes.

Park Chung-hee's 18-year rule ended when he was gunned down by his intelligence chief in 1979, five years after his wife was killed during an assassination attempt on his life. Critics say Park's 2012 election wouldn't have happened without conservatives' nostalgia for her father.