Former President Park Geun-hye was arrested and sent to a detention facility early Friday morning on the corruption charges that led to her removal from office three weeks ago.
“It is acknowledged that there is a reason and need for the arrest as (Park's) key charges were clarified and there is a risk of evidence being destoryed,” the Seoul Central District Court said in a statement.
Following the decision, the prosecution took Park to a detention facility in Uiwang, Gyeonggi Province, where her longtime friend Choi Soon-sil and others involved in the corruption scandal are in custody.
Former President Park Geun-hye is taken to a detention house in Uiwang on Friday morning. (Yonhap)
The decision came after a court hearing on Thursday to review the legality of her arrest that lasted eight hours and 40 minutes, making it the longest hearing of its kind in the nation’s history.
After the marathon hearing, Park had waited for the result at a makeshift detention facility set up on the 10th floor at Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office.
With the arrest warrant, the prosecution can detain her for up to 20 days.
The prosecution asked the court on Monday to issue the arrest warrant on 13 charges, citing the gravity of her charges, the possibility of her destroying evidence and the precedent that other key figures tied to the scandal had already been arrested.
Park’s confidante Choi Soon-sil, who is at the center of the corruption scandal, is already on trial for coercing donations from local firms. Former presidential aides, ex-ministers and Samsung Group’s de facto leader Lee Jae-yong have also been arrested and are standing trial.
Park arrived at the Seoul Central District Court in southern Seoul in a black sedan at around 10:20 a.m. and walked into the courthouse without answering any questions from reporters. Looking tense and grim-faced, Park walked out of the courtroom at 7:11 p.m.
She is suspected of extorting donations worth 77.4 billion won ($69.6 million) from local firms including Samsung Group for the Mir and K-Sports foundations controlled by Choi in return for political favors.
An independent counsel team, which ended its 70-day probe into the scandal on Feb. 28, concluded that part of Samsung’s donations had been bribes made in return for political favors.
Samsung is accused of providing or promising funds totaling 43.3 billion won to Park’s friend Choi and her business interests in exchange for the Park administration’s backing of a 2015 merger of its two affiliates. The merger was largely seen as a crucial step for the smooth transfer of management from the Chairman Lee Kun-hee to his only son Jae-yong.
If convicted of bribery, which carries the heaviest punishment among all the charges Park faces, she could be sentenced to life imprisonment or a term of more than 10 years.
Park’s other charges include allowing Choi to meddle in state affairs, leaking government secrets to her and discriminating against artists with liberal views.
Park has denied all the charges. She said local firms voluntarily donated the money and claimed no knowledge of any illegal activities by Choi and her inner circle.
Park was expelled from office on March 10, with less than a year remaining in her five-year term, in a unanimous decision by the Constitutional Court to finalize the Dec. 9 parliamentary impeachment.
The ruling stripped her of the immunity that had shielded her from criminal investigation.
Park became the country's third former president to be arrested over criminal allegations, following Roh Tae-woo and Chun Doo-hwan.
By Ock Hyun-ju (firstname.lastname@example.org)