South Korean supporters of arrested ex-president to protest

Bloomberg  Getty                      Park Geun-hye

A convoy of vehicles, including a black sedan carrying Ms Park, entered a detention facility near Seoul after the Seoul Central District Court granted prosecutors' request to arrest her.

Park's arrest followed a lengthy court hearing in Seoul, the country's capital, at which the judge decided there was enough evidence to warrant the arrest.

Prosecutors can detain Park for up to 20 days, during which they are expected to formally charge her and have her jailed during the next several months of court procedures.

The arrest of ousted South Korean leader Park Geun-hye has made Samsung Group, the country's top conglomerate, jittery as it may have a negative impact on the trial of its detained de facto chief, sources said Friday.

Her impeachment this month has left a political vacuum, with only an interim president pending a May 9 election, at a time of rising tensions with North Korea over its weapons programme and with China, which is angry over South Korea's decision to host a United States anti-missile system.

Park was accused of abusing her power, bribery, and illegally colluding with long-time friend Choi Soon-sil.

Ms Park is the third former president to be jailed since South Korea became a democracy in 1988. Lee is now in detention and faces what one prosecutor describes as the "trial of the century" for providing US$36 million to a secret associate of Park's in exchange for the approval of a large-scale merger.

Former presidents Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo, both previously army generals, received a life sentence and a 17-year prison term, respectively, in 1996 on charges including treason and bribery.




Even though prosecutors can charge Park without arresting her, they went ahead with the arrest anyway because of the serious allegations against her. Park, 65, has denied the accusations against her.

Choi is accused of using her presidential connections to pressure companies to give millions of dollars in donations to non-profit foundations she controlled. The allegations prompted millions of South Koreans to stage streets protests every weekend for months before the Constitutional Court ruled to dismiss her on March 10.

Park emerged from her private home and quickly stepped into a auto before she was driven to the court in a motorcade. Park was questioned for 14 hours by prosecutors last week.

Ms Choi and Samsung's acting head Lee Jae-yong, also involved in the scandal, are being held in the same detention centre to where Ms Park has been sent.

Choi is on trial for abuse of power and fraud.

An election to choose her successor will be held on May 9. Her bribery conviction alone is punishable with a minimum 10 years in prison.

Choi, at the center of the influence-peddling scandal, is also suspected of receiving secret government documents from one of Park's former secretaries on a regular basis to meddle in state affairs behind the scenes.

Her accomplices in these charges _ Choi, Lee and former aides Kim Ki-choon, An Chong-bum and Jeong Ho-seong, as well as former Culture Minister Cho Yoon-sun have been indicted and are now on trial.

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