Former President Park Geun-hye became the third South Korean president to stand trial on criminal charges extending to 18 including bribery.
In referring the case to the court, the prosecution charged Park of illegally collecting a total 59.2 billion won ($52.1 million) through organizations controlled by her friend Choi Soon-sil, adding 7 billion won later returned to Lotte Group and 8.9 billion won promised by SK Group as bribes in exchange for favors on top of already accused 43.3 billion won squeezed out of Samsung Group.
To build up the bribery charge, the prosecution stretched the bribe sum by including money demanded of or pledged by companies in exchange of favors.
Her charges are classified into four categories: bribery, abuse of power, attempted coercion and leakage of government secrets. Among these, bribery charges are very likely to be a major contentious issue during a trial.
Park has denied all the charges. She has argued local businesses voluntarily donated the money and claimed no knowledge of any illegal activities by Choi and her inner circle.
Park is also accused of colluding with her friend to extort donations from 18 large companies for the K-Sports and Mir foundations, and pressured Hyundai Motor, Posco and KT to provide favors.
She is also charged with ordering to create a blacklist of cultural figures dubbed to be critical of her and the government to deny of public funding.
The criminal trial of Park is expected to begin after the May 9 presidential election and the first court ruling may come out by mid-October at the latest.
By Lee Hyun-jung
[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business Newspaper & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]