Disgraced South Korean ex-President Park Goes on Trial

Remigio Civitarese
Mag 24, 2017

He died in 1994, and his daughter Choi Soon-Sil - already a friend who handled Park's daily life including her wardrobe choices - inherited his role.

It was her first public appearance since she was taken into custody on March 31.

She now faces 18 criminal charges, including extortion and leaking state secrets.

An inmate number 503 was attached to Park's dark blue jacket. Her signature swept-up hair style was maintained by odd-looking plastic pins sold at the prison.

The court allowed the press to take photos and broadcast the hearing's early minutes. Three judges entered the courtroom at 10 a.m., declared the opening of the session and asked the accused to enter.

The 65-year-old Park has denied all wrongdoing, blaming Choi for abusing their friendship.

All five are on trial for allegedly giving $38m (£31m) in bribes to Park and Choi in exchange for government support for a controversial merger. Rather than saying she was the former president, she weakly replied that she had no job. She sat one seat away from Ms. Choi, whose alleged influence over Ms. Park sits at the heart of the scandal that brought down her conservative government.

Shin Dong-bin, chairman of Lotte Group, the country's fifth-biggest conglomerate, appeared in the same court for bribery charge.

"What is your occupation?"

Following her impeachment in March, she has been in detention and has lost all her presidential immunity.

She was impeached by parliament in December after mass demonstrations - that built on economic and social frustrations - to demand her removal over a scandal centred on Choi, her friend of 40 years, and implicating some of the country's top businessmen. "President Park is not a person who could be lured by any bribes".

Park is also accused of letting Choi, who has no title or security clearance, handle a wide range of state affairs including senior nominations and even her daily wardrobe choices.

The ex-president is charged with taking or soliciting bribes worth 59.2 billion won (€50 million) from some of South Korea's most powerful conglomerates, or "chaebol", including taking bribes from the Samsung Group scion Jay Y Lee.

As allegations swirled, she was also accused of abuse of power, and negligence over the sinking of the Sewol ferry in 2014 - when more than 300 people, mostly schoolchildren, drowned in the South's worst disaster for decades.

Prosecutors also accuse Park of using her power to orchestrate a government blacklist of artists critical of her administration.

On the first day of her trial, Park denied charges of corruption, coercion and leaking confidential information. Lee faces a separate trial.

South Korea's embattled former president Park Guen-hye faced the judiciary today. The two were given the death penalty and 22.5 years in prison respectively in the first trial, but later were pardoned by former President Kim Young-sam.

Yonhap news agency reported the Seoul Central District Court began Park's trial on Tuesday.

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