But finalizing her prison term also makes her eligible for a special presidential pardon, an imminent opportunity as the country’s deeply divided electorate approaches the upcoming March 2022 presidential election.
President Moon Jae-in, a Liberal who won the presidential election after Parks’s departure, has not yet directly addressed the possibility of releasing his predecessor. Moon has recently seen his approval ratings plunge to low levels for economic woes, political scandals and growing coronavirus infections.
At least one prominent member of the Democratic Party of the Moon, chairman Lee Nak-yon, has raised the idea of pardoning Park, and another jailed former president, Lee Myung-bak, who is serving a 17-year term on charges of for corruption, as a gesture of national unity.
Park, 68, has described himself as a victim of political revenge. She has refused to attend her trials since October 2017 and did not attend Thursday’s ruling. Her lawyer did not return the call seeking comment.
The Monday office did not have an immediate response to the decision.
Park, the daughter of slain military dictator Park Chung-hee, was convicted of collaborating with her longtime confidant, Choi Soon-sil, for taking millions of dollars in bribes and extortion from some of the largest groups of countries, including Samsung, while she was in office from 2013 to 2016.
She was also charged with allegedly receiving illegal monthly funds from her spy bosses that were transferred from the agencies budget.
After weeks of protests by millions, Park was indicted by lawmakers in December 2016 and formally removed from office in March 2017 after the Constitutional Court upheld the impeachment.
It was not immediately clear how Thursday’s decision would affect the legal saga of Samsung billionaire Lee Jae-yong. The 52-year-old chairman of Samsung Electronics is facing a decision in the Seoul High Court next week in a retrial on charges he has bribed Park and Choi to win government support for a 2015 merger between the two associates of Samsung that helped strengthen its control over the countries’ largest business group.
Prosecutors are seeking a nine-year prison sentence for Lee, who has been indicted separately on charges of stock price manipulation, breach of trust and audit violations related to the merger. Lees’s lawyers have portrayed him as a victim of abuse of presidential power and describes that the 2015 deal was part of normal business activity.
Choi is currently serving an 18-year prison sentence.
Park initially faced a jail term of more than 30 years before the Supreme Court turned its cases back to a lower court in 2019.
The Seoul High Court in 2018 had sentenced him to 25 years in prison after examining him together for bribery, extortion, abuse of power and other sentences.
But the Supreme Court in October 2019 ordered the Seoul Supreme Court to deal with the Parks bribery charge separately from the other charges, based on a law that so requires for cases involving a president or other elected officials, even when the alleged crimes were committed together.
The Supreme Court had given Park a five-year term on spy fund charges in July 2019, but the Supreme Court also ordered a retrial of the case in November, instructing the lower court to apply more broadly an indictment for causing losses. in state funds.
Prosecutors appealed after the Seoul Supreme Court granted the Park a 20-year term in July last year following the merging of the two cases.
If Park fully assumes her duty, she will be released in 2039 at the age of 87.
Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, transmitted, rewritten or redistributed without permission.
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