South Korea’s top court on Thursday ordered a retrial for former president Park Geun-hye for illegally accepting state funds after a lower court acquitted her of bribery and embezzlement.
In a separate trial to the famous “Korean Rasputin” corruption case, Park, the country’s first female president, was sentenced in July 2018 to six years in prison for illegally taking money from the National Intelligence Service (NIS).
The Supreme Court has now ordered the Seoul High Court to retry the case after an appeals court reduced her sentence from six to five years in prison by acquitting her of part of the state fund loss charge and applying a charge of embezzlement instead, the top court said in a statement.
The Supreme Court said the lower courts’ decisions to acquit Park of state fund loss and bribery charges were wrong as legal principles had been misunderstood and that she should be seen as guilty.
Park, 67, was indicted in January 2018 on charges of accepting around 3.5 billion won (about $3 million) from three NIS spy agency chiefs.
By then, the former president was already on trial for the Rasputin (Park’s confidante Choi Soon-sil) case, on account of which she was removed from office in March 2017 and subsequently sentenced to 25 years in prison.
However, this summer, the Supreme Court ordered a retrial of that case too, due to a series of technicalities.
As the two prison sentences apply consecutively, Park could be nearly 100 by the time she is set to be released.
The corruption scandals involving Park and also implicating prominent businessmen such as Samsung’s de facto leader Lee Jae-yong sparked mass protests in South Korea between 2016 and 2017 and shook the foundations of the political and economic order of the Asian country.
Conservative Park has been in custody since Mar. 2017 and is the first democratically elected South Korean head of state to have been impeached. Her dismissal led to early elections, which the liberal Moon-Jae-in won.
Choi was the alleged mastermind of the scandal that rocked South Korea and was sentenced to 20 years in prison in Feb. 2018 and ordered to pay a multi-million-dollar fine.