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Supreme Court to render final verdict in ex-President Park's corruption case

The edited image provided by Yonhap News TV shows former President Park Geun-hye against the background of the Supreme Court in Seoul. (Yonhap)
The edited image provided by Yonhap News TV shows former President Park Geun-hye against the background of the Supreme Court in Seoul. (Yonhap)
The Supreme Court on Thursday will render a final ruling in a high-profile corruption case that led to the removal of then-President Park Geun-hye from office in 2017.

The country's top court is scheduled to hold a sentencing hearing at 11 a.m. over an appeal filed by prosecutors against a ruling in July that reduced Park's prison term.

Park was ousted from Cheong Wa Dae in March 2017 due to her involvement in a massive abuse-of-power and bribery scandal.

She was accused of conspiring with her longtime confidante Choi Soon-sil to force big conglomerates, such as Samsung and Lotte, to donate 77.4 billion won to two foundations under Choi's control.

Park was also separately indicted on charges of accepting off-the-book funds worth 3.5 billion won from three former chiefs of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) from May 2013 to September 2016 in collusion with her aides.

During the retrial in July, the Seoul High Court sentenced the former president to 15 years in prison for bribery, and an additional five years for abuse of power and other criminal charges. She was also fined 18 billion won ($15 million) and ordered to forfeit 3.5 billion won.

In comparison, she was given the combined 30-year prison term, 20 billion won in fines and a forfeit of 2.7 billion won by the appellate court in the two previous rulings in 2018 and 2019.

The reduced term reflected the top court's ruling in August 2019, in which Park was cleared of part of the abuse of power charges, and of an extortion charge raised over her alleged act of having conglomerates pay donations to two foundations controlled by Choi.

The top court, which heard the case once already, is widely expected to uphold the 20-year jail term handed down to Park. Since Park did not appeal the July ruling, the court will likely only review new arguments to be presented by prosecutors and close the case three years and nine months after she was first indicted over the influence-peddling scandal.

In that case, Park will have to serve 22 years in prison, which includes a two-year prison term for her 2018 conviction in illegal meddling in a nomination process of the then ruling Saenuri Party.

The July retrial followed the top court's decisions to return the two cases to the Seoul High Court for reconsideration in August and November 2019, respectively, ordering it to handle bribery charges separately from the rest of the charges. The Seoul High Court has since merged the two cases. (Yonhap)