Legal News - S. Korean court upholds prison term for ex-president Park
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South Korea’s Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a 20-year prison term for former President Park Geun-hye over bribery and other crimes as it ended a historic corruption case that marked a striking fall from grace for the country’s first female leader and conservative icon.

The ruling means Park, who was ousted from office and arrested in 2017, could potentially serve a combined 22 years behind bars, following a separate conviction for illegally meddling in her party’s candidate nominations ahead of parliamentary elections in 2016.

But the finalizing of her prison term also makes her eligible for a special presidential pardon, a looming possibility as the country’s deeply split electorate approaches the next presidential election in March 2022.

President Moon Jae-in, a liberal who won the presidential by-election following Park’s removal, has yet to directly address the possibility of freeing his predecessor. Moon has recently seen his approval ratings sink to new lows over economic problems, political scandals and rising coronavirus infections.

Many conservative politicians have called for Moon to release Park and another convicted former president, Lee Myung-bak, who’s serving a 17-year term over his own corruption charges. At least one prominent member of Moon’s Democratic Party, Lee Nak-yon, has endorsed the idea of pardoning the former presidents as a gesture for “national unity.”

Park, 68, has described herself a victim of political revenge. She has refused to attend her trials since October 2017 and didn’t attend Thursday’s ruling. Her lawyer didn’t return calls seeking comment.

The downfall of Park and Lee Myung-bak extended South Korea’s decades-long streak of presidencies ending badly, fueling criticism that the country places too much power that is easily abused and often goes unchecked into the hands of elected leaders.  Nearly every former president, or their family members and aides, have been mired in scandals near the end of their terms or after they left office.

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