Asia

Choi Soon-sil: South Korean ex-president's friend jailed

Choi Soon-sil, the woman at the centre of the South Korean political scandal and long-time friend of President Park Geun-hye, arrives for a hearing arguments for South Korean President Park Geun-hye"s impeachment trial at the Constitutional Court in Seoul, South Korea, 16 January 2017. Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Choi (centre) was a longtime friend and adviser to former South Korean President Park Geun-hye

A close friend of South Korea's former president has been jailed for three years for corruption.

Choi Soon-sil's conviction for soliciting favours for her daughter is the first in a wide-reaching influence-peddling scandal which brought down President Park Geun-hye.

She had acted for years as an adviser to Ms Park, who has been impeached and is also on trial.

Choi also faces charges that she accepted bribes for Ms Park.

Ms Park has denied all allegations of corruption.

Choi was found guilty of using her position to influence officials at a university to admit her daughter, Chung Yoo-ra, as well as give her daughter grades for papers or exams she never took.

The court stated in its verdict that "she committed too much wrongdoing to consider the actions were out of love as a mother who wants the best for her child," according to the Yonhap news agency.

Two former officials at the prestigious Ewha Womans University in Seoul have also been jailed for colluding with Choi.

Choi still faces other charges including abuse of authority, coercion, attempted coercion and attempted fraud.

What was her daughter's involvement?

Prosecutors say Ms Chung, an award-winning dressage rider, was involved in economic crimes, exam fraud, obstructing business and concealing criminal proceeds.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Ms Chung is currently not in detention in Seoul

She has denied all these accusations and said she had no knowledge of her mother's dealings, including those with Ms Park.

Ms Chung, 21, was arrested in Denmark earlier this year and extradited to South Korea.

She is currently not in detention in Seoul. On Tuesday a local court said there was no need to detain her and refused the prosecution's request for an arrest warrant.

What's behind the corruption case?

Choi is on trial accused of using her presidential connections to pressure companies to give millions of dollars in donations to two non-profit foundations she controlled.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Samsung's Lee Jae-yong has also been arrested

In exchange, it is alleged they received preferential treatment from the government.

Ms Park is alleged to have been personally involved, instructing Choi and two presidential aides to collect money for the launch of the foundations.

The claims have swept up some of South Korea's biggest companies, including electronics giant Samsung.

The de-facto head of Samsung, Lee Jae-yong, is on trial. Several other Samsung executives and former presidential aides are also either facing trial or are under investigation.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ms Park's trial began in May

Choi is also accused of having received confidential government documents from Ms Park.

Ms Park was arrested in April and preliminary hearings began in May.

She has previously admitted to some lapses, such as consulting Choi for advice and letting her edit presidential speeches, and has apologised for them.

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