Ousted South Korean President Park indicted on corruption charges

By Ock Hyun-ju, The Korea Herald/ ANN

The prosecution indicted former President Park Geun-hye on Monday on charges including bribery and abuse of power, concluding a six-month probe into the corruption scandal that forced her out of office.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office also filed charges against ex-presidential aide Woo Byung-woo and Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin — both without physical detention — over allegations tied to Park’s case.

Park, who is now in prison, is accused of colluding with her confidante Choi Soon-sil to take bribes and extort donations from local firms for Choi-controlled entities. She was also charged with leaking government secrets to Choi. Woo is charged with condoning Choi’s meddling in state affairs and abusing his authority to wield undue influence under the Park administration.

Lotte tycoon Shin, who is already on trial for embezzlement and breach of trust in a separate case, faces bribery charges. He is the second chief of a local firm to be put on trial in connection with Park’s scandal, following Samsung Group’s de facto leader Lee Jae-yong.

Park, who has been in custody since late last month, will face court proceedings while remaining in detention. The criminal trial of Park is expected to begin after the May 9 presidential election to minimize the political impact it could have on the election campaign that officially began earlier in the day. Park is suspected of colluding with Choi to extort donations worth 77.4 billion won (US$69.6 million) from local firms, including Samsung Group, for the Mir and K-Sports foundations controlled by Choi in return for political favors. She is also accused of abusing her presidential authority to help Choi’s business interests. An independent counsel team, which ended its 70-day probe into the scandal on Feb. 28, concluded that part of Samsung’s donations had been bribes made in return for political favors. Samsung’s de facto leader Lee Jae-yong is standing trial for offering or promising to offer bribes to Park and her friend Choi.