Tuesday, 23 May 2017
South Korea begins trial of impeached president Park Geun-hye
South Korea's former President Park Geun-hye has gone on trial for corruption, the latest stage in her dramatic fall from grace. In her first appearance in public since her arrest in March, she arrived at court handcuffed in a prison van. Ms Park, who denies any wrongdoing, is facing charges including bribery, abusing state power and leaking state secrets. She was impeached in March following mass protests. The ex-president is accused of colluding with her close friend Choi Soon-sil to extort money from some of South Korea's biggest companies, including Samsung, in return for political favours.
Ms Choi is also facing charges and at the opening of the trial sat alongside Ms Park. The maximum sentence for corruption in South Korea is life.
At the start of the trial which will determine whether she completes a transition from the presidential palace to a prison cell, Park Geun-hye was asked what her occupation was. She replied "unemployed". She now faces months of trying to persuade the judges that she didn't pressure companies into giving millions of dollars to the life-long friend who sits alongside her in court number 417, the two separated only by a lawyer. They did not greet each with either a word or even a glance. Ms Park wore a black suit rather than her prison garb. On her chest, worn like a broach: a badge with the number 503 - her prison number. She had a hairclip provided by the prison because her normal hairpins were taken away as potentially dangerous. Ms Park is facing a total of 18 charges including bribery, abuse of power, coercion and the leaking of government secrets. The charge sheet runs to about 120,000 pages, South Korean media report.