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South Korea court upholds 20-year jail term for ex-leader

outh Korea’s top court has upheld a 20-year jail term for former President Park Geun-hye over a vast corruption scandal that led to her downfall.

The ruling on Thursday upheld the reduced term given to Park in July on appeal after she was originally sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Prosecutors had tried to appeal against that reduction.

Park was convicted of abuse of power and coercion after she was impeached in 2017.

The Supreme Court on Thursday also upheld her fine of 18bn won (£12m, $17m).

The former president was her country’s first democratically-elected leader to be forced from office in a fallout that also landed two conglomerate heads in prison.

Park, 68, was initially sentenced to a total of 30 years in jail and fined 20bn won, but a high court later reduced the fine and the term to 15 years for corruption with another five for abuse of power.

Thursday’s ruling is the final verdict in the case, the culmination of a scandal that had fuelled widespread rage against political and business elites.

What was she convicted of?

In 2018 Park was found guilty of 16 out of 18 charges, most of which related to bribery and coercion.

The court ruled that she had colluded with her close friend, Choi Soon-sil, to pressure conglomerates such as electronics giant Samsung and retail chain Lotte to give millions of dollars to foundations run by Choi.

She was also convicted of forcing companies to sign lucrative deals with firms owned by Choi and donate gifts to Choi and her daughter.

In addition, Park was found guilty of leaking confidential presidential documents to her long-time friend.

The ex-leader has always denied wrongdoing and refused to take part in any of the court proceedings.

What led to her downfall?

Park’s close childhood friendship with Choi lay at the heart of her undoing.

The woman swiftly became the leader’s most trusted confidante.

But their relationship came under intense public scrutiny and Choi was deemed to have had undue influence over the nation’s affairs through her connection with Park.

Choi Soon-sil, the woman at the centre of the South Korean political scandal and long-time friend of President Park Geun-hye, arrives for a hearing arguments for South Korean President Park Geun-hye's impeachment trial at the Constitutional Court in Seoul, South Korea, 16 January 2017.
image captionChoi (centre) was a longtime friend and adviser to Park

After a prolonged series of hearings and months of huge street protests calling for her resignation, Park was finally removed from office in March 2017 and arrested shortly afterwards.

Choi was eventually found guilty of corruption, and sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2018.

Supporters of South Korea's former president Park Geun-hye gather during a rally demanding the release of Park Geun-hye outside the Seoul Central District Court in Seoul on 6 April 2018.
image captionPark’s supporters gathered outside the court in Seoul demanding her release in 2018

bbc news

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