South Korea to Pardon Ex-President Park Geun-hye, Imprisoned for Corruption

SEOUL, South Korea — The government of President Moon Jae-in said on Friday that it would pardon former President Park Geun-hye, who is serving a 20-year prison term after she was convicted on bribery and other criminal charges.

Ms. Park, 69, who was impeached and ousted from office in a historic decision, will be freed on Dec. 31 to promote “reconciliation and consolidate national power to help overcome the national crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic,” the Justice Ministry said in a statement.

She has served four years and nine months of her sentence so far.

Ms. Park, a daughter of the former military dictator Park Chung-hee, was in her fourth year in power in 2016 when hundreds of thousands of protesters began months of weekly rallies in central Seoul demanding that she be forced from office for corruption and incompetence.

That December, the National Assembly impeached her on charges of bribery and abuse of presidential power in a case that exposed deep collusive ties between powerful politicians and the huge family-controlled conglomerates known as chaebol.

In March 2017, Ms. Park became the first South Korean leader to be removed from office through parliamentary impeachment after the Constitutional Court upheld the lawmakers’ decision. Shortly afterward, she was arrested on multiple criminal charges. In an initial ruling in 2018, she was sentenced to 24 years in prison.

In January this year, the Supreme Court reduced Ms. Park’s sentence to 20 years and ordered her to pay 18 billion won ($15 million) in fines, saying that she and her longtime friend and confidante Choi Soon-sil had collected or demanded $19.3 million in bribes from three big businesses, including $7 million they collected from Samsung, South Korea’s largest and most lucrative business group.

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