South Korea upholds 20-year prison sentence for impeached former President

South Korea’s Supreme Court upheld a 20-year prison term on Thursday for former President Park Guen-hye, who was sentenced in 2018 on charges of misuse of influence, bribery and intimidation. The denial of Park’s appeal exhausts all legal options, leaving open only the option of incumbent President Moon Jae-special in’s presidential pardon.

In 2013, Park took office as the first female president of the nation and the first elected head of state in East Asia. She is also the daughter of Park Chung-hee, a former president and military dictator.

The Constitutional Court upheld her impeachment and removal from office. It also charged her on charges of unlawfully taking funds from the budget of the intelligence service that had been diverted. In 2018, after a retrial by the Seoul High Court, the Seoul Central District Court sentenced her to 24 years’ imprisonment, reduced to a 20-year term in July 2020.

Fifteen years in prison for bribery charges, five years for misuse of power and a fine of 18 billion won ($16.38 million) was included in the 20-year sentence upheld by the Supreme Court. Park also faces an additional two-year jail term for unlawfully intervening with the 2016 legislative elections with the nomination of candidates for the Saenuri Party (now Liberty Korea Party).

The right-wing Republican Party has published several statements calling for the acquittal of Park. It has called the impeachment “illegal,” and argues that the trial was motivated politically. Meanwhile, facing mounting media pressure for clarification of his stance, President Moon has not yet made his decision.

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