Former President Park Geun-hye, imprisoned since March 2017 for corruption and abuse of power, has asked for a temporary suspension of the execution of her penalty, citing health reasons.
Park’s lawyer Yoo Young-ha asked the prosecution for a stay of execution on Wednesday, according to sources on Thursday.
Park has received treatment on multiple occasions to relieve pain stemming from a lumbar disc condition, but there has been no improvement, Yoo said.
“She can’t sleep normally as she suffers pains that feels like getting burned, or cut by a knife, in addition to having pins and needles,” he added.
According to the Criminal Procedure Act, the execution of a prison sentence can be stayed if the person’s health would be seriously impaired otherwise, or if there is concern that he or she might not survive.
The prosecution can also order a temporary suspension if the condemned person is 70 years old or older, in the sixth month of pregnancy or later, has given birth within the past 60 days, or has lineal ascendants or descendants with no one else to look after them.
It remains to be seen whether prosecutors agree that Park’s lumbar disc pain and subsequent trouble sleeping are serious enough to warrant her temporary release.
A panel led by a senior prosecutor and comprising five to 10 members, including prosecutors and outside experts appointed by the attorney general, will be organized to deliberate the request.
In addition to Park’s health issues, her lawyer has cited “a need for national unity” and respectful treatment of a former president, but such claims are not subject to deliberation, according to the prosecution.
The prosecutors plan to examine her condition purely from a medical perspective.
Temporary suspensions of imprisonment have rarely been granted since 2015, when the Criminal Procedure Act was amended to require that such requests be decided by a panel that includes outside experts.
The main opposition Liberty Korea Party has begun asking for Park’s release.
The pre-judgment detention period for Park in her appeals trial on corruption charges expired Tuesday night, but she remains behind bars as she is serving a two-year jail sentence for meddling in her party’s candidate nominations ahead of the 2016 parliamentary election.
Local and appellate courts sentenced Park to 15 years in prison and fined her 20 billion won for abuse of power and various corruption offenses. Park was also sentenced to an additional six years for extorting and accepting illegal funds from various government offices, including the National Intelligence Service.
Last November, Park was handed a two-year prison term for election law violations from a Seoul appellate court. Her cases are pending at the Supreme Court.
Liberty Korea Party leader Hwang Kyo-ahn told reporters on Wednesday that no former president had ever been detained for so long, and that Park was ill.
By Kim So-hyun (email@example.com