Former South Korean President Bags 24 Years In Prison For Corruption

JUST IN: Ex-president sentenced to 24 years in Jail

The harshness of the sentence is likely to deepen divisions in a country still wrestling with the aftermath of the most serious political turmoil in years.

Thousands of Park's supporters have marched near the Seoul court to protest the ruling, carrying South Korean and USA flags and also signs and banners that read, among other things, "Immediately release innocent President Park Geun-hye" and "Stop murderous political revenge". She has refused to attend sessions since October and maintains her innocence.

While Choi was earlier sentenced to 20 years behind bars, Seoul Central District Court found Park guilty of 16 charges, including coercing tens of millions of dollars from the country's largest conglomerates.

The sentence announced on Friday - in the absence of ousted leader - is six years less than the punishment proposed by the prosecutors, however, the disgraced leader, who happened to be the first-ever female president of the country, denies any wrongdoing.

"The main blame. lies with former president Park herself", Kim said. It ordered a fine of about 16.8 million dollars. "She abused her power as the president and received 14 billion won worth of bribes from Samsung and Lotte, and requested 8.9 billion won from SK Group".

The court counted 7.3 billion won as bribes she took from Samsung.

The court agreed that Park planned an elaborate extortion scheme with a confidant, Choi Soon-sil.

Park, 66, became a focal point of discussion after the scandal during her tenure between 2013-17 rocked the East Asian nation.

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The scandal has already led to the arrests, indictments and convictions of dozens of high-profile government officials and business leaders. The prosecution had demanded a jail term of 30 years.

"We see the ruling fit for what Park has committed using her power to violate the rule of the country and its constitutional order", read the statement issued by the DPK. There were no immediate reports of major clashes or injuries.

Outside the court, hundreds of supporters of Park had gathered to watch the verdict on a large screen, waving Korean and U.S. flags and calling for the former president's release.

Park has been held at a detention center near Seoul since her arrest in March 2017, after she was removed from office on a landmark court ruling.

South Korea's first President Syngman Rhee, from 1948-1960, embraced authoritarianism and clung to power through rigged elections and corruption, critics say.

According to records, Park is the third South Korean leader to be put on trial for corruption but the first democratically elected one. But he's also remembered for imprisoning and torturing dissidents.

Park was expelled from the LKP in November past year after her impeachment and subsequent removal from office.

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