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Park Geun-hye -- from conservative icon to dethroned president

2018/04/06 15:59

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SEOUL, April 6 (Yonhap) -- Park Geun-hye, sentenced to 24 years in jail for corruption, is South Korea's first elected president to be removed from office by the Constitutional Court.

The 66-year-old is the eldest daughter of late former President Park Chung-hee. The former army general took power in a coup in 1961 and ruled the country for 18 years.

She spent her early years in the presidential palace Cheong Wa Dae. At 22, she took the role of first lady after her mother was shot to death by a pro-North Korea agent in 1974. Five years later, her father was gunned down by one of his closest aides.

Park entered politics in 1997 and won a parliamentary by-election the following year. She was an icon of conservatives while serving as a lawmaker five times and chairing her party twice.

She cemented her position as the conservative leader by spearheading the party's landslide victory in general elections in 2004, earning the nickname "Queen of Elections."

   Her first attempt at the presidency was unsuccessful. She lost to Lee Myung-bak in a 2007 primary for the party's presidential candidacy.

In 2012, she won the presidential election by beating rival Moon Jae-in. She reminded voters of the old good days of her father, who led the country's rapid economic growth. She also conjured up an image of a corruption-free leader, saying she had no family to care about and so had no reason to amass wealth.

The first major challenge of her presidency came in 2014 when the Sewol ferry sunk, killing more than 300. Her inaction and the government's poor response at that time came under public criticism and dogged her presidency going forward.

Her presidency ended last year, one year before her five-year term finished, due to a massive corruption scandal centered on her longtime friend Choi Soon-sil.

Following months of street protests, she was impeached by the National Assembly in December 2016 and removed from office by the Constitutional Court in March 2017.

She was arrested the same month and faced 18 criminal charges involving bribery, abuse of power, coercion and leaking government secrets.

elly@yna.co.kr

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