Timeline: The rise and fall of South Korea's Park Geun-hye

A South Korean court on Friday approved the arrest of former President Park Geun-hye over high-profile corruption allegations that already ended her tumultuous four-year rule and prompted an election to find her successor.

The Seoul Central District Court on Thursday held a hearing lasting almost nine hours on the arrest warrant, which was requested by state prosecutors on Monday.

In light of the court's decision, prosecutors immediately detained her, making her the third former South Korean president to be arrested.

"(Park) abused the mighty power and position as president to take bribes from companies and infringed upon the freedom of corporate management and leaked important confidential official information", a statement released Monday by the Seoul Central District Prosecutor's Office said.

The National Assembly voted to impeach Park, the country's first woman president, in December following months of protests demanding her resignation.

The former head of state has been accused of colluding with a confidant to extort money from Samsung, among other major conglomerates, and blacklisting artists including the likes of Oldboy director Park Chan-wook.

Prosecutors say they want to arrest Park because her alleged crimes are "grave" and other suspects involved the scandal, including her confidante Choi Soo-sil, have already been arrested. Those accused of paying bribes to foundations controlled by Choi include Lee Jae-yong, the de facto boss of electronics giant.

Park, 65, was arrested on charges that included bribery, extortion and abuse of power, The New York Times reported, becoming the country's first democratically elected president to be forced from office. Park acknowledges her ties with Choi in a speech to the nation, but denies breaking the law.

A slew of Park supporters were awaiting Park's arrival near the detention center as if they also expected the arrest of the former leader, who had been viewed as a political icon among conservative voters. She can be held in jail for up to 20 days as the investigation unfolds. After the deaths of her parents, Park lived in isolation, unmarried and without children.

Opposition lawmakers had called Thursday for Park's arrest. Even her brother, Park Ji-man, who she apparently has not seen for some time, was there. Choi and Lee are in detention as their trials proceed, and both deny wrongdoing.

Hwang Kyo-ahn, who is loyal to Ms Park, is now the acting president and an election is to be held by 9 May. A conviction for bribery alone has a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and maximum of life imprisonment in South Korea. The two men, former army generals, also faced sedition and mutiny charges for their roles in the 1979 military coup that brought them to power and in the 1980 massacre of anti-government demonstrators in the southwestern city of Gwangju.

  • Leroy Wright