South Korean Ex-President Park Arrested
The Seoul Central District Court issued a warrant to detain Park on charges of bribery, abuse of authority, coercion and leaking government secrets, after a marathon hearing the previous day. State prosecutors filed the request on Monday to arrest Park, citing the graveness of the alleged crimes and the possibility of the destruction of evidence.
Park, ousted in a historic ruling on March 10, became the country's third former president to be arrested over criminal allegations, following Roh Tae-woo and Chun Doo-hwan in the 1990s.
The Seoul Central District Court issued the warrant at 3:03 a.m. following a hearing that lasted nearly nine hours.
"There are considerable reasons and need to arrest (Park) as key charges have been substantiated considerably and concerns over the destruction of evidence still prevail," presiding Judge Kang Bu-young said, approving the prosecution's request to arrest her.
The former president was taken to a detention center in Euiwang, Gyeonggi Province, from the court in southern Seoul, about one hour and forty minutes after the warrant was issued.
With Park in jail, the number of people who have been arrested because of the massive influence-peddling scandal involving her confidant Choi Soon-sil increased to 21.
Park's arrest warrant is valid until April 19, and the prosecution plans to question her further during this period. It is unclear yet as to whether prosecutors will summon Park or visit the Seoul Detention Center to question her.
In the cases of former Presidents Chun and Roh, who were put behind bars for mutiny and bribery, prosecutors visited the detention center to question them.
The questioning of Park is likely to take place early next week.
Because official campaigning for the presidential election begins April 17, the prosecution is expected to indict Park before then, to minimize the case's impact on the election.
Security officials guarding Park have been withdrawn as she is now in detention but they will resume their duties if she attends questioning at the prosecution office.
If Park is found guilty of the multiple charges laid against her, including bribery, she faces a minimum of 10 years in prison and possibly up to 45 years.
She faces 13 charges in the scandal, including bribery, abuse of power, extortion and sharing state secrets with an unauthorized person, which is the largest number of charges faced by a former president.
Park is suspected of having colluded with her long-time friend Choi to get Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong to provide a total of 43.3 billion won in funds in exchange for Cheong Wa Dae assisting Lee in a smooth power transfer from his ailing father, Chairman Lee Kun-hee.
She also faces allegations of collecting funds from over 50 other major conglomerates for the Choi-controlled K-Sports and Mir foundations. The prosecution's investigation is also focusing on whether the funds were in exchange for business favors.
Moreover, Park allegedly pressured conglomerates to sign projects with companies owned by Choi and her acquaintances.
In addition, she is suspected of having a hand in the creation of a blacklist of artists critical of the government to cut them off from subsidies, forcing culture ministry officials to resign and pressuring former CJ Vice Chairwoman Lee Mi-kyung to step down, due to her disapproval of the group's entertainment arm. Park also faces charges of giving classified documents to Choi, who did not hold a government post.
Her accomplices in these charges _ Choi, Lee and former aides Kim Ki-choon, An Chong-bum and Jeong Ho-seong, as well as former Culture Minister Cho Yoon-sun have been indicted and are currently on trial.
At the hearing held for the arrest warrant, Park continued to deny all the charges against her.
- Asian Tribune -