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Politics

South Korea top court upholds ex-President Park's 20-year sentence

Prosecution loses appeal for longer term over graft and other crimes

Ousted former South Korean President Park Geun-hye arrives at a court in Seoul in August 2017.    © Reuters

SEOUL (Kyodo) -- South Korea's Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a 20-year prison sentence handed to former President Park Geun-hye over graft and other crimes.

In July, the Seoul High Court sentenced the disgraced former leader to a total of 20 years in prison for abuse of power, embezzlement and bribery, as well as fining her 18 billion won ($16.4 million) and ordering her to forfeit 3.5 billion won.

The combined 20 years was 10 years fewer than the original appeals court rulings against her. The prosecution appealed the July ruling to the Supreme Court.

Following earlier appeals court rulings, Park was originally to serve a combined prison time of 30 years, including 25 years for accepting bribes from large conglomerates such as Samsung and Lotte Group while conspiring with her longtime friend Choi Soon Sil.

The remaining five years was for causing the state to lose funds in connection with a bribery scandal involving South Korea's National Intelligence Service.

But in 2019, the Supreme Court repealed the lower court rulings and sent the cases back to a lower court for a retrial, resulting in the Seoul High Court ruling in July.

Separately, the 68-year-old faces a finalized sentence of two years in prison for election law violations after intervening in a party nominee selection ahead of the 2016 general election.

Park, who claims to be a victim of political retribution, stopped attending court sessions early in her trials and did not appeal the Seoul High Court ruling.

Lawmakers impeached Park in December 2016 over a corruption scandal that led to her formal removal as president in March 2017. She was arrested later that month and has since been held behind bars.

When she was ousted from power, Park still had one year left in her five-year term.

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