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Prosecutors seek 4-year jail term for former PM

SEOUL, Sept. 19 (Yonhap) -- Prosecutors on Monday requested a four-year jail term for a former prime minister under the previous administration on charges of pocketing illegal political funds.

Prosecutors also sought a court order for Han Myeong-sook to forfeit 940 million won (US$827,464), the same amount she was alleged to have received in illegal political funds from Han Man-ho, a former head of a local construction company, in 2007.

Although they share the same surname, the two Hans are unrelated.

Han Myeong-sook, the country's first-ever female prime minister who served between 2006 and 2007, was indicted in July last year on charges of taking the money in return for personal and business favors during and after her term under late president Roh Moo-hyun.

She has denied the charges.

"The indictment was intended to either block my run for Seoul mayor or push me to defeat," the ex-prime minister said in her final testimony.

Han Myeong-sook was considered a possible opposition candidate in the upcoming Seoul mayoral election scheduled for Oct. 26 but she decided not to run last week, apparently mindful of her legal battle.

She was indicted in July last year after losing narrowly to Oh Se-hoon of the ruling Grand National Party in the Seoul mayoral race.

"I have never received money from Mr. Han," she said. "During the trial, I realized more than anything else that reforms are imperative within our prosecution."

The prosecution refuted her claim of innocence.

"The nature of the crime is very problematic since she, even after serving as the country's prime minister, tried to cover up the taking of the massive amount of bribes," a prosecutor said during the court hearing.

Critics denounce the prosecution move as a political reprisal.

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