A South Korean court on Friday approved the arrest of former President Park Geun-hye over high-profile corruption allegations that already ended her tumultuous four-year rule and prompted an election to find her successor.
The Seoul Central District Court’s ruling means Park will be taken to a detention center soon. Prosecutors can detain her for up to 20 days before formally charging her, meaning she will likely be in jail while her case is heard. A district court normally issues a ruling within six months of an indictment.
The court’s decision marks yet another humiliating fall for Park, South Korea’s first female president who was elected in 2012 amid a wave of conservative nostalgia for her late dictator father whose 18-year rule is marked by both rapid economic rise and enormous human rights abuses.
Prosecutors accuse Park of colluding with a confidante to extort from big businesses, take a bribe from one of the companies and commit other wrongdoing. The allegations led millions of South Koreans to protest in the streets every weekend for months before the Constitutional Court ruled March 10 to remove her.
Park’s presidential powers had already been suspended after Parliament impeached her in December.
Prosecutors have said they want to arrest Park because her alleged crimes are “grave” and because other suspects involved the scandal, including her confidante Choi Soo-sil, have already been arrested. The Seoul court said it decided to approve Park’s arrest because of worries that Park may try to destroy evidence.
In the coming weeks, prosecutors are expected to formally charge Park with extortion, bribery and abuse of power. A bribery conviction alone is punishable by up to life in prison in South Korea.
Park and Choi deny most of the allegations. Park has said she only let Choi edit some of her presidential speeches and got her help on “public relations” issues. Choi made similar statements.
Park, 65, was impeached by the National Assembly on influence peddling charges in December 2016.
Previously arrested presidents include Roh Tae-woo, led South Korea from 1988 to 1993 and Chun Doo-hwan, who led the country from 1980-1988, South Korea’s Yonhap News reported.
View a timeline of Park Geun-hye’s impeachment and investigation from CGTN digital.
Ousted South Korean President Park Geun-hye was waiting on Thursday for a court’s decision on whether she will be arrested in a corruption scandal that has cost her the presidency and gripped the country.
Park, 65, became the country’s first democratically elected leader to be ousted from office when the Constitutional Court upheld a parliamentary impeachment vote on March 10. A presidential election will be held on May 9.
Following is a timeline of the main developments in the scandal and events in her life and political career.
1952: Park is born in Daegu, 280 km (170 miles) southeast of Seoul
1974: Park’s mother is killed by a bullet fired by a pro-North Korea assassin trying to kill her father, President Park Chung-hee. Park became acting first lady.
1979: Park’s father is assassinated by his disgruntled spy chief.
1998: Park returns to political life after years of seclusion. She becomes a member of parliament with a vow to save the country as it suffers through the Asian financial crisis.
2004: Park becomes leader of the main conservative party, which scores an upset victory in parliamentary elections.
2006: An assailant slashes Park’s cheek with a knife during an election rally.
Dec 2012: Park defeats liberal opponent Moon Jae-in to be elected president.
Feb 25, 2013: Park is sworn in as the first female president of South Korea, promising an era of hope.
April 16, 2014: The Sewol ferry sinks with the death of 304 people, most of them school children. The toll is attributed to the Park government’s failure to act quickly.
Oct 25, 2016: Park makes her first public apology for giving a friend, Choi Soon-sil, access to draft speeches during the first months of her presidency.
Oct 31, 2016: State prosecutors arrest Choi on suspicion of exerting inappropriate influence over state affairs.
Nov 4, 2016: Park makes her second televised apology, saying she would take responsibility if found guilty.
Nov 20, 2016: Prosecutors indict Choi on charges of abuse of power and attempted fraud.
Nov 29, 2016: In her third televised apology, Park asks parliament to decide how and when she could give up power because of the scandal.
Dec 9, 2016: Parliament votes to impeach Park. She is stripped of powers while awaiting a court decision on the vote. Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn becomes acting president.
Jan 1, 2017: Park denies wrongdoing, calling accusations “fabrication and falsehood”.
Feb 17: Samsung Group chief Jay Y. Lee arrested for suspected role in the scandal.
Feb 28: Special prosecutor indicts Lee and other company executives for bribery and embezzlement.
March 6: The special prosecutor says Park colluded with Choi to take bribes from the Samsung Group, paving the way for her to be prosecuted if she is ousted from office.
March 9: Lee’s trial begins on charges of bribery and embezzlement. He was indicted on charges including pledging 43 billion won ($37.24 million) in payments to Choi.
March 10: Constitutional Court upholds parliament’s vote to impeach Park, removing her from office.
March 21: Park appears at prosecutors’ office as a suspect to answer questions over suspected bribery and abuse of power.
March 30: Park attends a court hearing that will decide if she should be arrested on charges including bribery.
Story compiled with the information from the Associated Press, Reuters and Yonhap News Agency.