Park's fate and what happens next in S. Korea

Park's fate and what happens next in S. Korea

As president of South Korea, Park Geun-hye never appeared in public until stylists had arranged her hair in the trademark updo of her mother, a popular first lady who was killed by an assassin in 1974.

While in office, Park took a tough approach to nuclear-armed North Korea, repeatedly calling for stronger global sanctions against the regime and openly urging more of its citizens to defect to the South, and Pyongyang's official organs were relatively quick to report her arrest. The prosecution said it will not question Park Friday, her first day of detention, and speculation is high that the grilling will begin next week.

Choi Soon-Sil, Park's secret confidante at the heart of the scandal, is already on trial for forcing top local firms including tech giant Samsung to "donate" almost $70 million to non-profit foundations which she allegedly used for personal gain. Those accused of paying bribes to foundations controlled by Choi include Lee Jae-yong, the de facto boss of electronics giant.

Park was questioned for almost nine hours by the court Thursday before its decision to grant her arrest warrant. After her eight hour's worth of testimony, a judge at the Seoul District Court said there was sufficient evidence to arrest the former leader and said evidence could be destroyed if they did not.

The 65-year-old was assigned a single cell at the facility, a security official said, as cited by Reuters.

South Korea will elect a new president in May, and experts say it's likely that Park's conservative ruling party will be defeated in the vote after almost a decade in power. Fearing retaliatory measures and tax investigations, Samsung was forced to donate $69 million for the launch of two ventures that Choi managed, prosecutors said.

Park, removed from the presidency on March 10, 2017, is now facing 13 charges including bribery, abuse of power and leaking of confidential documents.

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If the court approves the arrest warrant requested by prosecutors, Park will be sent to a detention facility immediately as prosecutors can detain her for up to 20 days before laying formal charges. The impeachment has led to the country's Constitutional Court (like the United States, South Korea operates under a constitutional democracy with power divided among executive, judicial, and legislative branches) to issue its decree in equity: a new election will be held to replace the outgoing president on May 9th, 2017.

She was jailed on Thursday because prosecutors said the accusations against her are "grave".

At the beginning of last month, Park was residing at the sprawling presidential Blue House. She was assigned to a solidary cell and the standard procedure for a new inmate was followed, including an identification check, medical checkup and strip search.

Democratic Party candidate Moon Jae-in is the leading contender for president with a Gallup poll approval rating of 31 percent.

She had been "lost for words" when authorities asked for her arrest, the Chosun Ilbo daily quoted an unidentified pro-Park lawmaker as saying.

Her prison mates are her friend Choi and Samsung scion Lee, who is accused of giving bribes to Park for corporate favours, as well as top presidential aides involved in the scandal. A standard green prison uniform is the standard outfit.

If eventually found guilty, she would face at least 10 years in prison, legal experts said.

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