During a live broadcast of the former South Korean president's trial, Park Geun-Hye was sentenced to 24 years in prison after being found guilty of abuse of power and coercion. The trial was the culmination of a massive corruption scandal that prompted outrage at prominent political and business figures throughout the country.
Park was also fined 18 billion won ($17 million) for a slew of corruption charges but the former president did not appear in court Friday when the verdict was read. Park accused the trial hearings of being biased against her and refused to cooperate with the court proceedings. The decision to broadcast the verdict live is unprecedented but authorities cited extreme public interest in the case.
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The former South Korean president faced 18 charges ranging from bribery to coercion and was found guilty on all but 2 of the charges. The courts determined Park colluded with her close friend, Choi Soon-sil, to coerce conglomerates including Samsung and retail chain Lotte to donate millions of dollars to Choi's foundations. Park was also found guilty of leaking confidential presidential documents to her associate Choi.
The friendship was ultimately Park's undoing as her childhood friend became her most trusted associate but also her downfall when their relationship fell under intense public scrutiny. The charges against her allege Choi had undue influence over the country's affairs through his relationship with Park.
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The president was finally removed from office making her the first democratically-elected president to be impeached after a long series of hearings and months of protests in the streets. Park was arrested shortly after being impeached and has remained in custody ever since.
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The trial sends a message that greater awareness and criticism is needed of those with close ties to the political elite. The scandal also helped fuel the rise of the liberal Moon Jae-in who ultimately replaced Park as president after promising to clean up the government during his campaign.
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