South Korean Prosecutors Seek 30 Years’ Jail for Ousted Park

SEOUL (Reuters) -

 

South Korean prosecutors on Tuesday sought a 30-year jail term for former President Park who was ousted last year, as supporters braved the winter cold outside the Seoul court demanding her immediate release.

Park, 66, was dismissed in March after being impeached and is standing trial on charges of bribery, abuse of power and coercion in a case that rocked the country’s business and political elite. She denies wrongdoing.

The prosecution’s recommendation came two weeks after Choi Soon-sil, a longtime friend of Park who was at the center of the scandal, was jailed for 20 years for taking bribes from “chaebol”, or conglomerates, including electronics powerhouse Samsung and retail giant Lotte.

Prosecutors are also seeking a 118.5 billion won ($127.1 million) fine for Park, who has been detained since March 31 last year.

Park’s trial began in May and a verdict is expected before April in a case that brought scrutiny to the ties between South Korea’s political leaders and its largest conglomerate, the so-called “Republic of Samsung.”

“[Park] brought on  a national crisis by letting a person who has never been involved in state management rule the country,” a prosecutor said.

“She and Choi took tens of billions of won in bribes and yet denied her crimes and obstructed efforts to establish the truth.”

 

The Liberty Korea Party, a conservative opposition party formerly led by Park, condemned the call for jail. “What the prosecution is demanding is harsher than the death penalty,” the party said in a statement.

Seoul Central District Court had also sentenced Shin Dong-bin, chairman of the country’s fifth-largest conglomerate, Lotte Group, to two years and six months in prison in the same case.

Seoul High Court suspended a prison sentence for Samsung Group heir Jay Y. Lee in early February – a surprise decision that sent shockwaves through political and business circles. The court sentenced Lee to two and a half years in jail on charges including bribery and embezzlement, reducing the original term by half, but suspended the sentence for four years, meaning that he is unlikely to serve any more time in jail.