Former S. Korean President Park Geun-hye arrested over corruption scandal

South Korea's disgraced former president Park Geun-hye has been arrested and jailed over high-profile corruption allegations that already ended her tumultuous four-year rule and brought low some of the country's business and political elite.

The Seoul Central District Court earlier issued a warrant to detain Ms Park on charges of bribery, abuse of authority, coercion and leaking government secrets, after a almost nine-hour court hearing on Thursday.

Prosecutors can detain Park for up to 20 days, during which time they are expected to formally charge her.

A day earlier, Park was questioned during a court hearing for almost nine hours.

A judge at the Seoul Central District Court said in a statement that "the cause and the need for the warrant are recognised as the main charges against her have been verified and as evidence could be destroyed".

In the hearing Park argued against her arrest that she posed no flight risk and swore she would not tamper with evidence.

Park's former culture minister, Cho Yoonsun, and her ex-chief of staff, Kim Ki-choon, are also being held at the detention center following their arrests over suspicions that they blacklisted thousands of artists deemed as unfriendly to Park to deny them state support. Charges include abuse of power, accepting bribes, and leaking confidential information, CNN reported.

The country will hold a presidential election on May 9 to choose Park's replacement.

Park's conservative party described her arrest as "pitiful", while Moon, the liberal politician favored in polls to succeed her, said the country took a step toward restoring "justice and common sense".

"The family has had an extraordinary influence over Park Geun-hye for essentially her entire adult life", David Kang, a Korea expert at the University of Southern California, told CNN.

If convicted she could face more than 10 years in prison. Even as she maintains that she never sought personal advantage for herself, she could still be charged as a "joint principal offender", legal experts say-if prosecutors can prove that she was involved in planning to commit extortion with Ms Choi.

Ms Park's removal from office capped months of paralysis and turmoil over the corruption scandal that also landed the head of the Samsung conglomerate in detention and on trial.

Park was accused of conspiring with a longtime confidante, Choi Soon-sil, to collect tens of millions of dollars from big businesses, including more than $38 million in bribes from Samsung.

Jan 1, 2017: Park denies wrongdoing, calling accusations "fabrication and falsehood". Moreover, she will be written down in the books as the first South Korean leader to go behind bars since the country transitioned to a democratic form of government.

Samsung Electronics vice-chairman Lee Jae-Yong, who was arrested in February in connection to the scandal, was in court for more than seven hours for his hearing, and his detention was approved early the following day.

  • Arturo Norris