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Ex-President Park’s longtime friend sentenced to 18 years in prison

Choi Seo-won (Yonhap)
Choi Seo-won (Yonhap)




The Supreme Court upheld on Thursday an 18-year prison sentence against a longtime confidante of former President Park Geun-hye for her role in an influence-peddling scandal that eventually brought down Park’s presidency in 2017.



The Supreme Court upheld on Thursday an 18-year prison sentence for a longtime confidante of former President Park Geun-hye for her role in the influence-peddling scandal that eventually brought down Park’s presidency in 2017.

Choi Seo-won, formerly known as Choi Soon-sil, was sentenced to 18 years in prison, a fine of 20 billion won ($16.7 million) and forfeiture of 6.3 billion won for a list of corruption offenses as the highest court rejected her appeal against a lower court ruling.

Prosecutors welcomed the ruling as a befitting end to the scandal, which shook the nation and led to a special counsel investigation and five trials in the last three years. Choi was arrested in November 2016.

“(The ruling) is meaningful in the sense that an appropriate punishment was finalized and the substantial truth of the influence-peddling case has been revealed by probes and trials that have been conducted for a long time,” they said in a statement.

Choi, who was absent from the court for health reasons, was convicted of forcing 50 local companies to pay 77.4 billion won to two nonprofit organizations that she controlled in exchange for settling business issues that they were dealing with.

She was convicted of accepting 20 billion won worth of bribes from Samsung Group, in addition to three horses.

Choi was also found guilty of meddling in state affairs and gaining access to confidential government files without being granted any official authorization by the government but by using her friendship with the former president.

In a recently published memoir titled “Who Am I,” she wrote that the truth would be revealed and history would be the judge, “although the perfunctory judicial procedure ends.”

As the Supreme Court upheld the decision handed down by the Seoul High Court in February, the implications for an upcoming retrial for the former president appear to be minimal. The sentencing hearing for Park is slated for July 10.

In May, prosecutors demanded a prison sentence of 35 years for Park in a retrial in an appellate court. She has already been convicted of bribery, abuse of power and embezzlement.



By Park Han-na (hnpark@heraldcorp.com)
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