Former South Korean President Park Geun-hye was set free on Friday after serving four years and nine months in prison, following her corruption conviction being pardoned by the government last week.
Park was the first female president of South Korea and the daughter of former President Park Chung-hee. Four years ago, she was impeached and arrested due to a political scandal involving “trustees in politics.”
In the final verdict in early 2021, the court sentenced Park to 20 years in prison for political intervention and bribery, plus another two years for intervening in party referrals, totaling a 22-year sentence. At the same time, she received more than 20 billion won (about $17.7 million) in fines and recovery.
President Moon Jae-in has granted Park, 69, a special pardon due to her health that has “deteriorated significantly” since she was imprisoned in March 2017. Moon also cited the need for “national unity” being part of the reason why Park was pardoned.
“I hope this would provide a chance to go beyond differences in thoughts and pros and cons, and open a new era of integration and unity,” he remarked, imploring those who oppose the amnesty to understand the government’s purpose.
Park will receive government security protection but will retain none of her previous presidential privileges due to her conviction, Yonhap News reported.
She was hospitalized last month for back, shoulder, and other ailments and will remain there until early February. Although it remains unclear where Park will stay after her discharge from the hospital, given that her private house in Seoul had been confiscated and auctioned off in August.
Many of Park’s supporters and politicians from the conservative main opposition People Power Party supported the government’s decision to pardon her, with hundreds of her supporters celebrating her release outside the hospital, but some activists opposed the move.
A total of 1,001 activists from the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) and the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy have reportedly called for the government to cancel the amnesty granted to Park in a press conference.
“President Moon Jae-in’s unilateral pardon for ex-President Park, whom the people ousted through candlelit (rallies), constitutes a challenge to South Korea’s democracy,” KCTU chief Yang Kyung-soo said at the press conference, Yonhap News reported.
Park is the fourth former president of South Korea to be imprisoned; the three before her were Roh Tae-woo, Chun Doo-hwan, and Lee Myung-bak. Two former presidents Roh Tae-woo and Quan Doo-hwan were pardoned by the then-president while serving their sentences, establishing a precedent. Lee Myung-bak is still serving his sentence of 17 years in prison.
Lisa Bian and Reuters contributed to this report.