Ex-South Korean president Park Geun-hye arrested in corruption probe

SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of - Waving the national flag, the US stars and stripes and shouting military-style slogans, tens of thousands of supporters of arrested former South Korean President Park Geun-hye rallied Saturday for her to be released from detention on corruption allegations.

Park was driven to the detention centre on the outskirts of Seoul just before dawn on Friday after a district court approved prosecutors' request for an arrest warrant.

"It is justifiable and necessary to arrest [Ms Park] as key charges were justified and there is risk of evidence being destroyed", the court said in a statement.

Park, the daughter of late dictator Park Chung-Hee, is the third former leader to be arrested over corruption in Asia's fourth-largest economy, where politics and big business have always been closely tied.

The Seoul Central District Court granted the warrant following a hearing on Thursday, citing concern that Park could destroy evidence.

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. A court upheld her impeachment last month, removing her presidential immunity from prosecution.

An official at the detention center said she was assigned a single cell, but declined to provide further details. Turning out in their thousands, Park's defenders protested against her arrest following allegations of corruption.

One of the privileges Park would have to give up if arrested will be getting her hair coiffed in the chignon style. South Korea will hold an election in May to choose her successor, and opinion surveys say liberal opposition leader Moon Jae-in, who lost the 2012 election to Park, is the favorite. Fearing retaliatory measures and tax investigations, Samsung was forced to donate $69 million for the launch of two ventures that Choi managed, prosecutors said. The charges against her include bribery, extortion and abuse of power.

She is also accused of letting her friend, a high school graduate with no title or security clearance, handle a wide range of state affairs including nomination of top officials. Park was jailed Friday, March 31, 2017, three weeks after the Constitutional Court stripped her of office over a corruption scandal.

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

Prosecutors said on Monday Park was accused of soliciting companies for money and infringing upon the freedom of corporate management in her position as president. Lee is also now under arrest and denies the charges. Others involved in the scandal, including former presidential chief of staff Kim Ki-choon, former culture minister Cho Yoon-sun and Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong, are also locked up at the center.

In a 2007 memoir, Park vowed to make every effort to create a country filled with hope for South Korea's children.

Earlier in March, Park denied all charges against her during the first questioning period.

  • Leroy Wright