SEOUL (SOUTH KOREA) – South Korea’s top Court on Thursday upheld a 20-year prison term for former President Park Geun-hye over bribery and other crimes.
This is the final ruling in what is being called the historic corruption case that saw the country’s first female leader impeached in 2017 and concludes a lengthy legal process, which clears the way for a presidential pardon.
Park could serve up to 22 years, following a separate conviction for illegally meddling in her party’s candidate nominations ahead of parliamentary elections in 2016.
The ex- president took office in 2013 as South Korea’s first woman president. The impeachment took place after she was found guilty of colluding with a confidante to receive tens of billions of won from major conglomerates to help her family and fund non-profit foundations she owned.
Her case has been heard in different courts, including a retrial in July last year, but the Supreme Court’s ruling on Thursday to uphold a 20-year jail term and fine of 18 billion won ($16.38 million) exhausts her legal avenues.
The chief of the ruling Democratic party, Lee Nak-yon, has floated the idea of a pardon for Park and another ex-president, Lee Myung-bak, also in jail on corruption charges, in the name of national unity.” President Park Geun-hye is innocent,” the right-wing Our Republican Party said in a statement.
“The members of Our Republican Party want President Park to be freed as soon as possible,” the statement said.
A source close to President Moon Jae-in, who is a liberal, said the president would make a decision on the question of a pardon for Park that reflects the will of the people.
The topic of pardon seems to have divided South Korean’s. A survey by the pollster Realmeter last week found 47.7% of respondents in favour of a pardon and 48% against.