January 15, 2021 12:14
Ex-President Park Geun-hye continues to sulk after the Supreme Court on Thursday upheld her 20-year prison sentence with a fine of W18 billion for corruption and abuse of office (US$1=W1,098).
With the final verdict Park theoretically becomes eligible for the customary pardon that all Korea's jailbird presidents have benefited from so far. But the government is divided over the issue and sources close to Park say she remains silent.
Park has been sulking since she was impeached in 2017 and was tried in absentia.
One admirer, Cho Won-jin of the hard-right Our Republican Party, told the Chosun Ilbo on Thursday, "Park insists that her trial was a political vendetta... and has protested through silence over the last three years and 10 months. She has yet to make any comments about a pardon and probably won't respond in the future either."
Park was recently taken to hospital twice for treatment. She had surgery on her shoulder in September last year and was hospitalized for 78 days before being sent back to prison. Now her shoulder pain has reportedly spread to her neck and back.
Former lawmaker Suh Chung-won said, "We asked a key ruling party official to suspend her sentence for badly-needed hospital treatment, but were rejected. The president must now make a decision to pardon her on humanitarian grounds."
Park is at any rate talking to nobody. "Even her lawyer Yoo Yeong-ha is unable to meet her often now due to the coronavirus epidemic," a source said.
There is no appetite either among the public or in the ruling party for a pardon at this time, but talks between Cheong Wa Dae and ruling-party figures continue. Some conservatives feel the disgraced ex-president should be freed because she has already spent nearly four years behind bars and is in poor health.
A Cheong Wa Dae official said, "It would be inappropriate to talk about a pardon so soon after the Supreme Court delivered its ruling. The question could be raised during the president's press conference next week."
The question of a pardon also applies to Park's predecessor, Lee Myung-bak, who has been jailed for 17 years for embezzlement and corruption in office.
Park has already served a separate two-year sentence for meddling in the nomination of party candidates during her time in office. If for some reason she is not pardoned, she will be out of jail in 2039, when she turns 87.
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