Former President Park Geun-hye was sentenced to 24 years in prison and a fine of 18 billion won (US$16.8 million) at the Seoul Central District Court on April 6, 2018 for her involvement in bribery cases. The court’s judgment was made by default, as Park submitted a non-attendance statement for ‘health reasons’ earlier in the morning.
She was ousted as the President of the Republic of Korea unable to resist and control the mass demonstrations against her and her government in March last year.
She was convicted on a total of 16 of 18 charges, which included abuse of power, coercion, receipt of bribery and leaking of government secrets. Prosecutors had demanded 30 years in prison and a fine of 118.5 billion won. The ruling came after almost a year since she was indicted on April 17 last year.
The sentence did not contain this information but the main cause of the misfortune is attributed to her negligence of duty.
Literally, she did not come to her office at Cheong Wa Dae for work nor did she properly meet the prime minister, chief Presidential secretary, cabinet ministers or senior Presidential secretaries. Reports indicate that former President Park mostly consulted the all-important affairs of the state with Madam Choi Soon-sil who had a questionable sense of justice or honesty.
Relying almost lopsidedly on Madam Choi instead of the Presidential secretaries or government ministers, many problems occurred. The then President Park let many things happen to the disappointment of the people—as well as to the government ministers who, however, did not seem to have any guts to speak up in front of her.
There would be second and more trials on former President Park, but she would not attend them and therefore her trial is literally over. She left many good lessons for her successors.
In fact, such lessons had already been given as almost all her predecessors had faced a similar fate.
Nine of her predecessors had faced a miserable fate, namely Presidents Syngman Rhee, Park Chung Hee, Chun Doo-hwan, Roh Tae-woo, Kim Young-sam, Kim Dae-jung, Roh Moo-hyun and Lee Myung-bak.
They were either impeached, assassinated, driven to committing suicide, or imprisoned—all due to direct or indirect involvement in corruption cases, many of them committed by their relatives and/or in-laws.
At this point, a leading Korean- language daily, Chosun Ilbo, editorially pointed out recently that the main cause of this situation is not so much the person as the system of rule by the President. The Presidential system which is used in the United States does not correctly fit in Korea. In particular the Korean political climate, the Presidential system gave rise to an all-powerful ‘Emperor’ rather than a President.
The ‘Emperor’ who was able to act as such while in office in Korea, almost invariably fell down to the bottom from the top of a towering precipice.
The Chosun Ilbo editorial scathingly points out that behind all these tragedies are the prosecution authorities of Korea. It said that the prosecutors were ‘loyal dogs’ of the President while in office and wielded an absolute measure of power while the President was in power. However, when a new President comes in succeeding the old one, the prosecutors bite and gnaw at the outgoing President for the sake and benefit of the incoming new President.
The Chosun points out, “The evil, ill-fated relationship between Presidents Roh Moo-hyun and Lee Myung-bak explains everything!”
Almost all former Presidents were imprisoned for receipt of bribes and abuse of power and the amounts are ‘astronomical’ in the opinion of many people who claim to be ‘in the know.’ In the case of Roh Moon-hyun, however, who threw himself down the rocky cliff in his hometown, is considered to be ‘minimal’ compared with the others.
All his predecessors (and successors) outlived the ‘political retaliations and persecutions’ imposed on them by their successors after their retirement, but Roh Moo-hyun committed suicide although the amount involved was considered ‘minimal’ compared with those of his predecessors.
Chosun claimed that “the main culprit of the whole affair is actually the Prosecution.”
It stated that the Prosecution carried out the corruption investigation in the face of ongoing moves designed to turn over the right and authority of the criminal investigation from the Prosecution to the Police.
In connection with the sentencing of former President Park Geun-hye to 24 years in prison, the Presidential Mansion of Cheong Wa Dae said: “It is painful to witness the sad development today. It is a painful development not only for a person but also for the entire nation. What happened today should not be forgotten.”
In order to prevent the recurrence of what happened to former President Park, Chosun suggested: “The Presidential Office of Cheong Wa Dae should try to give up the personnel management right they have on the Prosecution, the Police, the National Tax Office and the Board of Audit and Inspection. It is because they are the original cause of the whole problem. Do they really have an intention to do so?”