SEOUL, South Korea — A South Korean court on Friday sentenced former South Korean President Park Geun-hye to an additional eight years for abusing state funds and violating election laws.
She now faces the prospect of more than three decades behind bars. She’s already serving a 24-year prison term over a massive corruption scandal that led to her removal from office last year.
Seoul Central District Court on Friday found her guilty of causing substantial losses to state coffers by unlawfully receiving about 3 billion won ($2.6 million) from chiefs of the National Intelligence Service during her presidency and sentenced her to six years in prison.
However, she was found not guilty of bribery charges related to the money transfers. The court said it was unclear whether the spy chiefs sought or received favors in return.
The court separately sentenced Park to two years in prison for breaking election laws by meddling in her party candidate’s nomination while attempting to win more spots for her loyalists ahead of the parliamentary elections in 2016.
She didn’t appear in court.
Park’s conservative party failed to gain a majority in the National Assembly after the parliamentary vote in April 2016. Analysts then said voters were frustrated over what they saw as Park’s heavy-handed and uncompromising leadership style and inability to tolerate dissent within her party, which triggered rifts between her loyalists and reformists.
The party’s defeat loomed large months later in December when an opposition-controlled parliament suspended Park’s powers by passing a bill on her impeachment. Millions of protesters had poured onto the streets calling for Park’s ouster amid allegations that she colluded with a longtime confidant to take tens of millions of dollars from companies in bribes and extortion and allowed the friend to secretly manipulate state affairs. The court convicted Park on most of these charges when it sentenced her to 24 years in prison in April.
The ruling marked a stunning fall from grace for the country’s first female leader who won the 2012 presidential election by more than a million votes. Park enjoyed overwhelming support from conservatives who remember her father, staunch anti-communist dictator Park Chung-hee, as a hero whose aggressive industrial policies lifted the nation from the devastation of the 1950-53 Korean War and rescued millions from poverty. Critics see the elder Park as a brutal dictator who tortured and executed dissidents.
While Park’s prison term currently adds up to 32 years, this could change, and potentially get even longer, depending on rulings of appeals courts. Prosecutors appealed Park’s 24-year term on charges including bribery and abuse of state power and are now demanding 30 years in prison. The Seoul High Court will rule on the case on Aug. 24.
Following her impeachment, Park was formally removed from office following a ruling by the country’s Constitutional Court in March last year and was arrested weeks later.
By KIM TONG-HYUNG, Associated Press