From S Korean president now just prisoner 503

South Korea's former president, Park Geun-hye, was arrested March 31, three weeks after being removed from office by the country's Constitutional Court.

The former head of state spent her first night in solitary confinement at Seoul Detention Centre after a court Friday ordered her to be held pending charges.

A court approved her arrest before dawn on Friday, on charges of bribery, abuse of authority, coercion and leaking government secrets, and Ms Park, 65, was immediately driven to a detention centre in the south of the capital, Seoul. Her arrest took place following a nine-hour hearing.

The warrant for her arrest dictates she be held for 20 days, which prosecutors will use to continue to build a case against the disgraced politician.

Park, ousted in a historic ruling on March 10, became the country's third former president to be arrested over criminal allegations, following Roh Tae-woo and Chun Doo-hwan in the 1990s.

Her prison mates are her friend Choi and Samsung scion Lee, who is accused of giving bribes to Park for corporate favours, as well as top presidential aides involved in the scandal.

Park, 65, becomes 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.

Ahn Cheol-soo, the leading candidate for the more centrist People's Party, who is second in the Gallup poll at 19 percent, said in a statement that Park's arrest, "is of her own making because she repeatedly gave false explanations without expressing apologies or regrets".

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

Choi Soon-sil, Park's longtime friend and an alleged co-conspirator in the corruption and abuse of power charges, is also being detained at the center.

Her arrest today follows the detention of Choi Soon-sil previous year and the subsequent arrest of Samsung's Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong last month (February).

Apart from the cell, Park would be subject to the same rules on everything from meals to room inspections, the former prosecutors and prison officials said.

Organisers of the protest told crowds, waving Korean and U.S. flags - the latter as a sign of the alliance between the two countries against North Korea - Park's rivals were "leftist North Korea sympathisers" and "turncoats".

The foundations then backed the former president's policy initiatives. Furthermore, the warrant came alongside with a notice stating that if the ousted leader were not taken into custody in a swift manner, the probability of Park tampering evidence would be very high, The New York Times reported.

Both Choi and Lee have also been arrested on corruption charges.

Nearly 11 percent of South Korea's population is Catholic.

  • Leroy Wright