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S.Korea’s ex-president regains freedom after 5yrs imprisonment

By Esther Kalu

Ex-South Korean President, Park Geun-hye, has regained freedom as she was released from prison nearly five years after being convicted of corruption, fuelling debate over whether she would play any role ahead of a March presidential election.

Park, 69, who was released on Friday was said to have been released following her medical health issues which paved for her freedom.

As gathered, she was the country’s first democratically elected leader to be thrown out of office when the Constitutional Court upheld a parliament vote in 2017 to impeach her over a scandal that also led to the imprisonment of the chiefs of two conglomerates, Samsung and Lotte.

South Korea’s top court in January was said to have upheld a 20-year prison sentence imposed after Park was found guilty of colluding with a friend, who is also in jail, to receive tens of billions of won from the companies, mostly to fund her friend’s family and non-profit foundations.

President Moon Jae-in granted a special pardon to Park last week, citing her deteriorating health and expressing hope to “overcome unfortunate past history and promote national unity”.

Broadcasters showed Park leaving a Seoul hospital, where she had stayed since last month for medical treatment, after correction officials delivered a letter of pardon at midnight.

She did not comment but her lawyer has said Park, the daughter of a former military ruler, had offered an apology for causing public concern and thanked Moon for making a “tough decision”.

Park’s release comes as her old party, the main opposition conservative People Power Party, and Moon’s Democratic Party are in a tight presidential race.

Her imprisonment divided the country, with right-wing, pro-Park groups staging weekly rallies to denounce Moon and his policies and call for Park’s release, until COVID-19 distancing rules stifled the rallies last year.

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