S.Korean court adds 8-year jail term to Park Geun-hye for loss of state funds, political intervention

A South Korean court on Friday added an eight-year jail term to impeached President Park Geun-hye, who has been already serving a 24-year prison term.

A South Korean court on Friday added an eight-year jail term to impeached President Park Geun-hye, who has been already serving a 24-year prison term, for the loss of state funds and illegal political intervention.

The Seoul Central District Court delivered a guilty verdict to Park in the televised first-trial ruling. She was sentenced to six years in jail and the forfeit of 3.3 billion won (US$2.9 million) for the loss of state funds and a separate two-year imprisonment for the illegal political intervention.

Prosecutors indicted the 66-year-old in January on charges that she received 3.5 billion won of funds from the National Intelligence Service, the country's spy agency, from May 2013 to September 2016 while she was in office.

It was an untraceable off-book fund used by NIS agents for special activities. Prosecutors claimed it was the bribe, but the court ruled that it was not a kickback for lack of proof that there were favors in return for the fund.

Park was known to have used the NIS fund for private purposes, such as paying maintenance costs for her private residence in southern Seoul, buying new clothes and paying bills for secret phones she used to contact Choi Soon-sil, Park's longtime confidante who was embroiled in a series of corruption scandal that led to Park's impeachment.

Park was ousted from office in March last year and brought into custody weeks later. She became the first South Korean president to be impeached while in office.

The ousted leader was also accused of illegally interfering with then-ruling Saenuri Party's nomination of candidates in the 2016 parliamentary elections to help candidates loyal to Park be elected in the elections. A president in South Korea is required to remain politically neutral in elections.

Prosecutors originally demanded a 15-year imprisonment for Park on charges of the loss of state funds and political interference.

The district court said the plaintiff abused her presidential power in accepting the NIS funds, which shook the foundation of state budget execution that should be strictly conducted.

The court said Park denied her crimes though she was responsible for the longstanding, massive loss of state funds, noting that the illegal political intervention damaged a representative democracy.

Earlier in the day, prosecutors asked a separate appeals court to sentence Park to 30 years in jail over the corruption scandal that triggered massive candlelit rallies resulting in her impeachment.

Park was sentenced to 24 years in jail in the lower court's ruling on April 6, but prosecutors appealed to the court for sentencing the impeached president to the 30-year imprisonment.

Prosecutors demanded a fine of 118.5 billion won for Park. The lower court ordered a fine of 18 billion won.

Park was accused of colluding with her decades-long friend, Choi Soon-sil who was at the center of the corruption scandal, to force big conglomerates, including Samsung Group, to donate 77.4 billion won to two nonprofit foundations controlled by Choi.

Park was also charged with taking 43.3 billion won in bribe from Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong in exchange for helping Lee inherit the management control from his ailing father, Chairman Lee Kun-hee.

Park has not been present in court hearings since October last year, calling her trials politically motivated.

The appeals court's verdict would be delivered on Augusut 24.

Special Reports