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[Newsmaker] Ex-President Park to remain in hospital after midnight release

Park will not receive courtesy as a former president; will only receive security support

A banner praying for the recovery of former President Park Geun-hye is hung in front of Samsung Medical Center in Ilwon-dong, Seoul, Thursday. (Yonhap)
A banner praying for the recovery of former President Park Geun-hye is hung in front of Samsung Medical Center in Ilwon-dong, Seoul, Thursday. (Yonhap)
Former President Park Geun-hye was to be released at Thursday midnight, when the presidential pardon takes effect, after spending four years and nine months in prison for several corruption convictions.

According to the Ministry of Justice, the amnesty of Park was to take effect at midnight. Park was to be released from her room at Samsung Medical Center in Seoul, where she has been receiving treatment for several weeks. Park’s deteriorating health was an important consideration for the amnesty.

Park was hospitalized on Nov. 22 for chronic disease and received a doctor’s opinion that she needed to be hospitalized for more than six weeks. She was scheduled to be hospitalized and treated at least until Feb. 2 next year. Contact with outsiders was also blocked except for a few close aides, including her lawyer Yoo Young-ha.

Justice Minister Park Beom-kye said Wednesday, “When I looked at the opinion of the three hospitals again, it was not just opinions but medical certificates. The (amnesty) decision was made by considering how she was treated, including the hospitalization process at Seoul St. Mary‘s Hospital.”

Although Park is released, she will not receive courtesy as a former president, only security support.

An official from the Ministry of Justice said, “The Seoul Detention Center was in charge of security (before the release), but after the pardon, it will be under the jurisdiction of the Presidential Security Service or the National Police Agency.”

The Presidential Security Service will be in charge of Park’s security in accordance with the law on the guard of the president.

According to the law, if the president retires before the expiration of his or her term of office, the period of security by the Presidential Security Service is five years thereafter. As Park had been detained for four years and nine months, in principle, the presidential security service will end in early March of next year and will be transferred to police. The issue is expected to be discussed between the Presidential Security Service and police.

Park, president from 2013-17, was sentenced to 22 years in prison over bribery and other charges.

As the former president is being released from prison 1,736 days (four years and nine months) after her arrest on March 31, 2017, she will be exempted from the remaining 17 years and three months. She has paid 3.5 billion won ($2.9 million) in fines, but is also exempted from 15 billion won in fines that have not yet been paid.

By Shin Ji-hye (shinjh@heraldcorp.com)
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