Korean president arrested, jailed after long saga

Ousted South Korean leader Park Geun-hye was behind bars in the Seoul Detention Centre on Friday after her arrest, on charges including bribery, in a corruption scandal that has brought low some of the country's business and political elite. A court upheld her impeachment last month, removing her presidential immunity from prosecution.

It was a dramatic setback to Park, South Korea's first female president who rose to power four years ago amid conservatives' nostalgia for her late dictator father who is credited by supporters for pulling a war-torn country out of poverty in the 1960-70s. She denies all charges.

March 30: Park is arrested after a court approved a warrant and sent to a detention centre as prosecutors continue to investigate her.

An arrest was needed because "there is probable cause to charge her and a concern of evidence being destroyed", according to remarks attributed to Judge Kang Boo-young by Yonhap News Agency. She will now remain in jail while prosecutors seek a formal indictment, which they said should come within the next three weeks.

A convoy of vehicles, including a black sedan carrying Park, entered a detention facility near Seoul before dawn after the Seoul Central District Court granted a prosecutors' request to arrest her. The allegations prompted millions of South Koreans to protest in the streets every weekend for months before the Constitutional Court ruled March 10 to remove her. Park's presidential powers had already been suspended after parliament impeached her in December.

Ms Choi is accused of using her presidential connections to force companies for getting millions of dollars in wake of donations to non-profit foundations she controlled. Park begins serving as first lady.

Park left the Blue House following the assassination of her father in 1979. Opinion surveys say liberal opposition leader Moon Jae-in, who lost the 2012 election to Park, is the favorite. The prosecutors are expected to hurry along Ms Park's case, and to press ahead with parallel investigations into other suspects in the scandal, while other politicians campaign for the presidency. In the 1990s, Chun Doo-hwan was sentenced to death and Roh Tae-woo received a 22 1/2-year term after the pair were found guilty of creating slush funds and inciting a coup.

Her impeachment this month has left a political vacuum, with only an interim president pending a May 9 election, at a time of rising tensions with North Korea over its weapons program and with China, which is angry over South Korea's decision to host a US anti-missile system. Her bribery conviction alone is punishable with a minimum 10 years in prison. She also will not be able to get her hair coiffed, the report said.

Park became the third former president to be taken into custody.

Meanwhile, an election to choose Park's successor must be held within 60 days and onlookers expect it to fall on May 9.

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  • Leroy Wright