Park Geun Hye is waiting for a court decision on her arrest

A South Korean court on Friday approved a warrant to arrest ousted president Park Geun-hye, the country's first democratically elected leader to be thrown out of office, on accusations of bribery and abuse of power.

Park was expelled from office on March 10, with less than a year remaining in her five-year term, in a unanimous decision by the Constitutional Court to finalize the December 9 parliamentary impeachment.

South Korea is to hold an election in May to choose Park's successor.

Live TV footage earlier showed a stern-looking Park entering the Seoul Central District Court building amid a barrage of camera flashes.

Government attorneys requested the arrest warrant on Monday, citing the gravity of Park's alleged crimes and the risk that she could destroy evidence.

Many Park supporters waved national flags and shouted "president" as Park's auto entered the facility.

Park is the first former South Korean leader put behind bars since two former military dictators were imprisoned on corruption and mutiny charges in the mid-1990s.

On Thursday, Park, 65, arrived expressionless at the court to plead her case that she should not be arrested or held while prosecutors investigate the scandal.

The warrant was issued shortly after 3am, and she was led from the office to a jail outside Seoul, the South Korean capital.




Park is now being held in the Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office, awaiting the court's decision.

She was removed from office when a constitutional court upheld her parliamentary impeachment.

Park is suspected of conspiring with Choi to pressure 16 business groups, including Samsung, to donate 77.4 billion won ($69 million) to two nonprofits that Choi controlled and used for personal benefit.

But they said they wanted to arrest her because the allegations against her are "grave" and because other suspects involved the scandal, including her confidante Choi Soo-si and Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong, have already been arrested.

The court said in a text message that there was "reason and necessity" to arrest Park.

She was taken to a prosecutor's office to await the judge's decision, which was not expected until late into the night. Park has denied wrongdoing.

Park and Choi are accused of separately receiving a bribe from Samsung and colluding with top officials to blacklist artists critical of Park's policies to deny them state financial assistance programs, according to prosecutors.

Prosecutors have already identified Park as an accomplice to her longtime friend Choi Soon-sil, who is now in custody, for multiple charges including bribery, abuse of authority, coercion and the leakage of confidential documents. She apologised for putting trust in Choi, but said she only let her edit some of her presidential speeches and provide the president with some "public relations" help.

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