SOUTH Korea’s disgraced former president Park Geun-hye has been arrested and locked up over the corruption allegations that ended her four-year rule.
A convoy of vehicles, including a black car carrying Park, entered a detention facility near Seoul after Seoul Central District Court granted prosecutors’ request to arrest her.
Supporters waved national flags and shouted “president” as the car entered the facility.
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Prosecutors can detain her for up to 20 days before formally charging her, which means Park will probably be in jail while her case is heard. A district court normally issues a ruling within six months of an indictment.
The Seoul court’s decision is another humiliating fall for South Korea’s first female president. She was elected in 2012 amid overwhelming support from conservatives, who recall her dictator father as a hero who lifted the country from poverty in the 1960s and 1970s despite a record of severe human rights abuses.
Prosecutors accuse Park of colluding with confidante Choi Soon-sil to extort money from big businesses, take a bribe from one of the companies and commit other wrongdoing.
The allegations led millions of South Koreans to protest in the streets every weekend for months before legislators impeached her in December and the Constitutional Court ruled in March to formally remove her from office.
South Korea will hold an election in May to choose a successor. Opinion surveys say liberal opposition leader Moon Jae-in, who lost the 2012 election to Park, is the favorite.
Prosecutors can charge Park without arresting her, but they said they wanted to arrest her because the allegations against her are “grave” and because other suspects involved in the scandal, including her confidante Choi and Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong, have already been detained.
The Seoul court said it decided to approve Park’s arrest because it believes key allegations against her were confirmed and there were worries that she may try to destroy evidence.
Park’s conservative party described her arrest as “pitiful”, while the liberal politician favoured in polls to succeed her said the country had taken a step towards restoring “justice and common sense”.
In the coming weeks, prosecutors are expected to formally charge Park with extortion, bribery and abuse of power.
Prosecutors believe Park conspired with Choi and a top presidential adviser to bully 16 business groups, including Samsung, to donate millions for the launch of two non-profit groups that Choi controlled.
Company executives said they felt forced to donate in fear of retaliatory measures including state tax investigations.
Park and Choi are accused of separately receiving a bribe from Samsung and colluding with senior officials to blacklist artists critical of Park’s policies to deny them state financial assistance programmes, according to prosecutors.Park also is alleged to have passed on state secrets to Choi via a presidential aide.