Published: Fri, March 31, 2017
Global | By Maureen Mccoy

Ousted South Korean Leader Park Geun-hye Arrested On Corruption Charges

A court hearing that will decide whether former President Park Geun-hye will be arrested for corruption is continuing for over six hours as of 5 Seoul on Thursday.

Her impeachment this month has left a political vacuum, with only an interim president pending a May 9 election, at a time of rising tensions with North Korea over its weapons programme and with China, which is angry over South Korea's decision to host a USA anti-missile system.

Looking grim-faced and pale, Park ignored a barrage of flashbulbs and did not speak when she arrived at the Seoul Central District Court. Earlier in the day, the Seoul Central District Court approved prosecutors' request to arrest her, citing worries that she may try to destroy evidence.

Many Park supporters were seen carrying national flags and shouting "president" when Park's auto was entering the detention facility.

Park is the first former South Korean leader put behind bars since two former military dictators were imprisoned on corruption and mutiny charges in the mid-1990s.

"There is a concern over destruction of evidence, so the grounds and necessity for [her] arrest are acknowledged", warrant judge Kang Bu-young explained in a statement.

If issued the arrest warrant, Park would be the third South Korean former leader to be taken into custody.

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Prosecutors said on Monday that Park was accused of soliciting companies for money and infringing upon the freedom of corporate management by using her power as the president. Prosecutors questioned her for 14 hours on March 21, after her ouster earlier in the month took away her immunity from prosecution. "It would be unfair" not to seek Park's arrest, a source from the prosecutors' office had said.

The 65-year-old was driven away from her home in southern Seoul past hundreds of flag-waving, screaming supporters lining the narrow street.

Chun was sentenced to death - the sentence was later commuted to life in prison - while Roh was sentenced to 17 years.

Park is suspected of conspiring with Choi to pressure 16 business groups, including Samsung, to donate 77.4 billion won ($69 million) to two nonprofits that Choi controlled and used for personal benefit.

Some tried to break through police barricades in an effort to block her four-car convoy, and its journey was broadcast live on television.

Park was impeached by parliament in December, as the scandal combined with mounting economic and social frustrations to trigger huge candlelit demonstrations.

Park is alleged to have been personally involved in this, and to have given Ms Choi unacceptable levels of access to official documents. Prosecutors already branded Park and Choi as criminal accomplices. Park has said she only let Choi edit some of her presidential speeches and got her help on "public relations" issues.

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