Park Geun-hye: South Korea's ex-president granted government pardon
South Korean President Moon Jae-in has pardoned former President Park Geun-hye, who was serving a 22-year prison term for a vast corruption scandal.
The 69-year-old was convicted of abuse of power and coercion in 2018 after she was impeached the previous year.
She was her country's first democratically-elected leader to be forced from office.
Park has been hospitalised three times this year due to chronic shoulder and lower back pain.
Local news outlet Yonhap said Park, who was among the beneficiaries of Mr Moon's special amnesty for the new year, had been placed on the list due in part to her poor health.
The announcement has come as a surprise as President Moon Jae-in had previously ruled out a pardon.
South Korea's first female prime minister Han Myeong-sook, who served a two-year prison sentence from 2015-2017 for bribery, was also exonerated by the government on Friday.
In 2018, Park was found guilty of 16 out of 18 charges, most of which related to bribery and coercion.
The court ruled that she had colluded with her close friend, Choi Soon-sil, to pressure conglomerates such as electronics giant Samsung and retail chain Lotte to give millions of dollars to foundations run by Choi.
In addition, Park was found guilty of leaking confidential presidential documents to her long-time friend.
The ex-leader has always denied wrongdoing.
Park was initially sentenced to a total of 30 years in jail and fined 20bn won (£12.5m, $16.8m), but a high court later reduced the fine and the term to 15 years for corruption with another five for abuse of power.
The whole affair prompted numerous mass protests in South Korea - many of which called for Park to step down - as it laid bare the shadowy links between topmost echelons of politics and the heads of conglomerates in South Korea.
The case also paved the way for the liberal Moon Jae-In into power after Park, as he campaigned on a promise to root out corruption in high office, says the BBC's Seoul Correspondent Laura Bicker.
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In 2017 South Korean police clashed with protesters in Seoul as the country's top court upheld parliament's decision to impeach Park.