Park just latest South Korean president to fall from grace

AP News
|
Posted: Mar 30, 2017 10:33 PM
Park just latest South Korean president to fall from grace

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korean presidencies have a history of ending badly — the latest is that of Park Geun-hye, arrested Friday in a corruption case that could send her to prison. Nearly all the country's former presidents, or their family members and top aides, have become entangled in scandals near the end of their terms or after leaving office. Besides corruption, there have been coups, an assassination and a suicide:

___

SYNGMAN RHEE (1948-1960)

The U.S.-educated Rhee, who fought for Korean liberation from Japanese colonial rule, became South Korea's founding president in 1948 with help from the United States. His government became increasingly authoritarian, especially after the 1950-53 Korean War, and critics accused him of resorting to corruption and nepotism to prolong his hold on power. He won his fourth presidential term in 1960 amid widespread suspicions of vote-rigging. Nationwide protests forced him to flee to Hawaii, where he died in 1965.

___

PARK CHUNG-HEE (1961-1979)

A former lieutenant in the Japanese colonial army, Maj. Gen. Park took power in a coup in 1961, which ended a brief period of civilian rule after Rhee resigned. Park, the father of Park Geun-hye, was credited for successful industrial policies that drove a period of rapid economic growth. Others, though, remember him for arresting, torturing and executing dissidents. He was assassinated by his spy chief during a late-night drinking party in 1979.

___

CHUN DOO-HWAN (1980-1988)

Maj. Gen. Chun and his military cronies rolled tanks and troops into Seoul to seize power in a coup in December 1979 that ended the interim government of acting President Choi Kyu-hah following Park's death. Months later, Chun arranged to have himself elected president in a gymnasium filled with a pro-government electorate. In 1987, massive pro-democracy demonstrations forced him to accept a constitutional revision for direct presidential elections. After his tenure ended, Chun spent two years in exile in a remote Buddhist temple as calls mounted to punish him for corruption and human rights abuses.

___

ROH TAE-WOO (1988-1993)

Roh, Chun's army buddy and hand-picked successor, won the 1987 election, thanks largely to divided votes among opposition candidates. Both Chun and Roh were arrested in late 1995 on charges of collecting hundreds of millions of dollars from businessmen while in office. They were also indicted on mutiny and treason charges stemming from Chun's coup and a bloody 1980 crackdown that killed hundreds of pro-democracy demonstrators in the city of Gwangju. A court in April 1996 confirmed a life sentence for Chun and a 17-year prison term for Roh. Both were released by a presidential pardon in 1997.

___

KIM YOUNG-SAM (1993-1998)

Kim, whose election formally ended military rule, initially enjoyed strong public support for his ambitious anti-corruption drives and the arrests of Chun and Roh. However, his popularity nosedived as the late-1990s Asian financial crisis battered South Korea's economy, toppling some of the country's debt-ridden conglomerates and forcing the government to accept a $58 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund. Critics said South Korea took a harder hit because Kim mishandled the economy. He left office amid a corruption scandal that saw his son arrested and jailed.

___

KIM DAE-JUNG (1998-2003)

A longtime dissident who had been sentenced to death by a military tribunal under Chun, Kim rose to the presidency and held an unprecedented summit with then-North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in 2000. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize that year. He left office tainted by corruption scandals involving aides and all three of his sons and questionable cash remittances to North Korea shortly before the inter-Korean summit.

___

ROH MOO-HYUN (2003-2008)

Roh leaped to his death in 2009, a year after leaving the presidential Blue House, amid allegations that his family members took $6 million in bribes from a businessman during his presidency. His older brother was sentenced in 2009 to two and a half years in prison for influence-peddling, although he was later pardoned. Earlier, lawmakers voted to impeach Roh in 2004 on allegations of incompetence and election law violations, but the Constitutional Court reinstated him two months later, saying the accusations were not serious enough to justify his unseating.

___

LEE MYUNG-BAK (2008-2013)

The conservative Lee's victory, which ended a decade of liberal rule that sought rapprochement with North Korea, reflected voters' hopes that the former Hyundai CEO would revive a bad economy. His popularity declined over unmet economic promises, media policies that critics saw as attacks on freedom of speech, and a string of corruption scandals. Toward the end of his term, Lee watched his only son and an elder brother come under fire for alleged irregularities in funding Lee's private home. Another brother was arrested on separate allegations of taking bribes from bankers and served a 14-month prison term.

___

PARK GEUN-HYE (2013-2017)

Park's arrest came three weeks after the Constitutional Court stripped her of office over a corruption scandal, amid allegations that she colluded with a confidante to extort companies for money and favors, took bribes, and allowed the friend to manipulate state affairs from the shadows. Park has apologized for putting trust in her friend, Choi Soon-sil, but has denied any legal wrongdoing. She could be charged with a variety of crimes, including bribery, extortion, abuse of power and leaking state secrets. The bribery allegations alone are punishable by a prison term of more than 10 years and possibly even a life sentence.