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Ousted South Korean President Sentenced To Two Dozen Years In Prison

REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter

A South Korean court sentenced former President Park Geun-hye to 24 years in prison Friday for corruption, according to multiple reports.

The Seoul Central District Court found the former leader guilty of 16 counts of bribery, abuse of power, and coercion. In addition to prison time, the court fined Park 16.8 million dollars. Friday’s sentence is the latest in Park’s fall from power after she was ousted in February 2017, clearing the way for liberal South Korean President Moon Jae-in to take power in the vacuum.

The disgraceful downfall of the country’s first female president is an end with which many former South Korean presidents are very familiar.

South Korea’s first President Syngman Rhee, from 1948-1960, embraced authoritarianism and clung to power through rigged elections and corruption, critics say. Massive demonstrations forced him to flee the country and settle in Hawaii. He died in exile.

Major General Park Chung-hee, president from 1961-1979 and father of Park Geun-hye, was ultimately assassinated by his spy chief at a party. Acting President Choi Kyu-hah became the interim leader, but he was overthrown by a military coup.

Major General Chun Doo-hwan was president from 1980-1988. After sending tanks and soldiers into Seoul, he elected himself president of South Korea. As democracy movements restored civilian rule, Chun fled to a Buddhist temple in the mountains, where he lived in exile amid constant demands that he be punished for various human rights violations and corruption.

Chun, along with his chosen successor Roh Tae-woo (president from 1988-1993), were both arrested in the mid-1990s on charges of embezzlement, treason, and the brutal murder of hundreds of pro-democracy protesters. Chun was executed, and Roh was sentenced to more than 20 years in prison.

Kim Yong-sam, president from 1993-1998, managed to ruin the South Korean economy, and he left office with an absolutely abysmal approval rating. His son was later put in prison for corruption.

Kim Dae-jung, president from 1998-2003, left office amid numerous corruption scandals and serious concerns about questionable payments to North Korea before the major inter-Korean summit that won him his Nobel Peace Prize.

Roh Moo-hyun, president from 2003-2008, was accused of accepting millions of dollars in bribes. He committed suicide after leaving the Blue House.

Lee Myung-bak, president from 2008-2013, was a strong anti-corruption proponent. He watched in horror as his family was brought down on corruption charges. Lee’s son and older brother got caught up in major scandals, and another brother was arrested for taking bribes from bankers.

Park Geun-hye joins the ranks of South Korea’s many notorious leaders.

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