South Korean court confirms 20-year prison term for ex-president Park

Former South Korean President Park Geun-hye sits for her trial at the Seoul Central District Court in Seoul on May 23, 2017 (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon, Pool, File)
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Updated 14 January 2021

South Korean court confirms 20-year prison term for ex-president Park

  • Park was convicted of corruption, extortion and bribery
  • She is the daughter of slain military dictator Park Chung-hee

SEOUL, South Korea: 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 wrapped up 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, potentially serves 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 presidential election in March next year.
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.
But at least one prominent member of Moon’s Democratic Party, chairman Lee Nak-yon, has raised the idea of pardoning Park and another imprisoned former president, Lee Myung-bak, who’s serving a 17-year term over his own corruption charges, 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.
The office of Moon, who has recently seen his approval rating sink to new lows over economic problems, political scandals and rising coronavirus infections, didn’t have an immediate response to the ruling.
Park, the daughter of slain military dictator Park Chung-hee, was convicted of colluding with her longtime confidante, Choi Soon-sil, to take millions of dollars in bribes and extortion from some of the country’s largest business groups, including Samsung, while she was in office from 2013 to 2016.
She was also indicted on charges of accepting illegally monthly funds from her spy chiefs that were diverted out of the agency’s budget.
Following weekslong protests by millions, Park was impeached by lawmakers in December 2016 and officially removed from office in March 2017 after the Constitutional Court upheld the impeachment.
Park originally faced a prison term of more than 30 years before the Supreme Court sent her cases back to a lower court in 2019.
The Seoul High Court in 2018 had sentenced her to 25 years in prison after reviewing her of bribery, extortion, abuse of power and other convictions together.
But the Supreme Court in October 2019 ordered the Seoul High Court to deal with Park’s bribery charge separately from other charges, based on a law requiring so for cases involving a president or other elected officials, even when the alleged crimes are committed together.
The High Court had handed Park a five-year term over the spy fund charges in July 2019, but the Supreme Court also ordered a retrial on the case in November.
Prosecutors appealed after the Seoul High Court handed Park a 20-year term in July last year over the charges.


Filipinos abroad cautioned on new strain of COVID-19

Updated 39 min 36 sec ago

Filipinos abroad cautioned on new strain of COVID-19

  • Manila brings home 400,000 overseas workers affected by the pandemic

MANILA: Philippines Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III reminded overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to remain vigilant against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and follow the health and safety protocols of their host countries, especially with the emergence of a new and more contagious strain.

More COVID-19 infections have been recorded among Filipinos abroad, with the highest number of cases reported in the Middle East.

“There is no room for complacency. We cannot let our guard down. Despite the availability of COVID-19 vaccines in your country of work, the virus remains an imminent threat to your health and safety,” Bello said in a statement on Monday.

Citing a report from the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO), Bello said the Middle East remains the region with “highest recorded cases of infection among OFWs at 7,844 as of Jan. 13.”

The region also has the highest number of OFW deaths due to COVID-19, reaching 619 according to the report.

On Sunday, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said that “Qatar reported the single biggest number of cases at 3,873, with 14 new COVID-19 infections among OFWs in the last 24 hours. Nineteen OFW casualties were recorded.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), in a report on Monday, confirmed a total of 13,591 COVID-19 cases among Filipinos abroad as of Jan. 18. Of the total number, 3,968 are undergoing treatment; 8,682 have recovered, while 941 died.

Based on the DFA data, countries in Europe and the Americas have over 3,000 cases with 317 deaths, while there were 2,746 OFW infections in Asia and the Pacific, with 21 deaths.

More than 400,000 overseas Filipino workers affected by the pandemic have been brought home by the government, the DOLE reported during the weekend.

Latest figures from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) showed that 8,273 OFWs were transported to their respective provinces last week alone, up from 7,895 the previous week.

In a report to Bello, OWWA Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac said total repatriates who have undergone quarantine and been cleared of COVID-19 stood at 410,211 as of Jan. 16.

“After their ordeal in their country of origin, our dear OFWs were all provided accommodation, food, transportation and cash assistance by the government. Now, they are safely home with their families,” Bello said.

It is estimated that about 60,000 to 80,000 more OFWs will be repatriated this year. Those awaiting repatriation form part of the over 520,000 OFWs displaced by the pandemic.