Former South Korean President Park Geun-hye was arrested on charges related to the bribery scandal that led to her impeachment. Park faces 13 charges in total, including bribery, abuse of power and the leaking of state secrets. She has not been formally indicted yet but prosecutors can detain her for up to 20 days before formally charging her.
Park was removed from office March 10th, stripping her of presidential immunity after South Korea’s Constitutional Court upheld a decision to impeach her for alleged corruption.
The scandal has dominated the headlines in South Korea since late last year and sparked mass protests, many calling for her impeachment. The controversy centered around Park’s friend and close adviser, Choi Soon-sil, who is alleged to have had significant and inappropriate influence over the former president. Choi is on trial for abuse of power and fraud.
Among other accusations, Park is accused of helping extort some $38 million from Samsung and a total of $70 million from South Korean companies for the private slush fund of her friend and confidant Choi Soon-sil. Park is also accused to leaking state secrets to Choi. Lee Jae-yong, the former head of Samsung is also being held in connection to the same corruption scandal. Lee is accused of approving the millions in bribes to Choi.
The former president continued to deny all wrongdoing during a 14-hour interrogation last week, leading prosecutors to ask for a warrant for her arrest. They said they were concerned Park would destroy evidence if she remained at large. The 65-year-old former president was taken to a detention center outside Seoul, the same detention center where Choi Soon-Sil and Lee Jae-yong, the de facto head of Samsung are both being held. If convicted, Park could face up to 10 years in prison.
Park becomes the third former president in South Korean history to face the possibility of a prison sentence. Two other former leaders, Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo, were charged with improperly collecting millions from businesses while in office. Both were later pardoned after short jail stints.
Seoul Central District Prosecutor’s Office released a statement regarding the arrest. “The suspect abused the mighty power and position as President to take bribes from companies and infringed upon the freedom of corporate management and leaked important confidential official information.”
Park Geun-hye was the nation’s first female president and the daughter of the former president Park Chung-hee. Park’s mother was killed in 1974 in an assassination attempt that targeted her husband. Park was regarded as First Lady after her mother’s death. Park’s father, Chung-hee, was gunned down by his own intelligence chief in 1979. After her father’s killing, Park Geun-hye left the presidential Blue House and secluded herself from the public eye. She entered politics in the late 1990s — when public nostalgia for her father emerged after the country’s economy was hit hard by the Asian financial crisis.