Former South Korean President Park freed after nearly 5 years in prison


Former South Korean President Park Geun-hye was released from prison on Friday almost five years after being convicted of corruption, fueling debate over her role ahead of the March presidential election.

Park, 69, was the country’s first democratically elected leader to be removed from office when the Constitutional Court upheld a parliament vote in 2017 to impeach her over a scandal that also led to the imprisonment of the heads of two conglomerates, Samsung and Lotte.

South Korea’s highest court upheld a 20-year prison sentence in January after Park was convicted of colluding with a friend, who is also in jail, to receive tens of billions of won from companies, mainly to fund his friend’s family and non-profit foundations.

President Moon Jae-in granted Park a special pardon last week, citing his deteriorating health and expressing hope “to overcome the unhappy history of the past and promote national unity.”

Justice Department officials pardoned Park at the hospital where she has been staying for a month Thursday at midnight, Yonhap News Agency reported, adding that she remained there on Friday. The hospital declined to comment.

Her lawyer said Park, the daughter of a former military leader, apologized for raising public concern and thanking Moon for making a “difficult decision.”

Park’s release comes as his former party, the main conservative opposition People Power Party, and Moon’s Democratic Party are in a tight presidential race.

His imprisonment has divided the country, with right-wing pro-Park groups holding weekly rallies to denounce Moon and his policies and call for Park’s release, until the COVID-19 distancing rules choke off the rallies. last year.

Hundreds of Park’s supporters braved freezing temperatures to flock to the hospital where she was staying late Thursday to celebrate her release, with more than 1,000 bouquets of flowers arriving.

About 200 people protested in downtown Seoul against his release, Yonhap reported.

It was not clear whether Park would resume any political activity, but she said in a brief released Thursday that her conviction was politically motivated and she expressed hope that she “will meet people again someday.”

People Power presidential candidate Yoon Suk-yeol, who investigated the Park scandal as attorney general, said on Friday he had done his job as an official, adding that he would like to visit Park when his health s ‘will improve.

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