South Korean prosecutors on Thursday added a fresh charge of illegal election activity to the indictment against ousted former president Park Geun-Hye, taking the number of accusations she faces to 21. Park is being held in custody as her corruption trial which began last May proceeds.
The charges against her over the massive political scandal that sparked nationwide fury and culminated in her impeachment range from bribery to abuse of power. She is accused of offering policy favours to a number of business tycoons including Samsung heir Lee Jae-Yong who helped enrich her secret confidante, Choi Soon-Sil.
Park is also accused of letting Choi, a daughter of a shady late religious figure with whom Park was close for decades, handle many key state affairs despite Choi having no title or security clearance. The latest charge accuses Park of violating electoral laws by secretly aiding and funding campaign preparations for her political allies ahead of a 2016 general election.
Under South Korean law, once in office the president who is limited to a single term is barred from any involvement in activities related to elections. Choi is also in custody while on trial for corruption, with her verdict expected later this month, while the decision on the appeal by Samsung’s Lee against his conviction and five-year jail sentence is due on Monday.
It remains unclear when the verdict might come in Park’s marathon trial, which has heard from more than 100 witnesses. Park, 65, rose to power in 2012 largely thanks to the popularity of her late father, dictator Park Chung-Hee, who oversaw the country’s rapid economic growth during his iron-fisted rule from 1961 to 1979.
But the scandal emerged in late 2016, exposing questionable, decades-long ties involving her, Choi and her late father as well as corrupt links between politics and business.Millions called for her ousted in months of nationwide protests, and she was formally impeached by parliament in December 2016, with the country’s top court confirming the decision last March.