Disgraced South Korean ex-president Park returns home from prison


SEOUL, March 24 (Reuters) – Former South Korean President Park Geun-hye left hospital on Thursday three months after being released from prison where she spent nearly five years following a corruption conviction.

Park, 70, became the country’s first democratically elected leader to be forced out of office when the Constitutional Court upheld a vote by parliament in 2017 to impeach her following a scandal that also led to the heads of two conglomerates, Samsung and Lotte, in prison.

“As president, I have tried to work hard for the country and the people, but there are many dreams that have not been realized,” said Park, wearing a dark navy coat and holding a handbag, to hundreds of cheering fans after arriving at her home in the southeastern city of Daegu.

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“But those dreams are tasks for others,” Park said, signaling no intention of returning to the political fray. “I will provide support so that talented people can contribute to the development of my hometown of Daegu and the country.”

Park is the daughter of former dictator Park Chung-hee, and her imprisonment has divided a country in which the age-old Cold War rivalry between right and left still shapes politics. Read more

An unidentified object was thrown at Park shortly after she began delivering her televised remarks from a podium, but she smiled and thanked the crowd.

“I am extremely grateful that so many people came to greet me warmly even though I had many shortcomings and disappointed you,” she said.

Last year, the Supreme Court upheld Park’s 20-year sentence for colluding with a friend, who was also jailed, to receive millions of dollars from corporations, primarily to fund his friend’s family and non-profit groups.

Incumbent President Moon Jae-in, who leads a liberal administration, granted Park a special pardon in December, citing his failing health and his hopes to move beyond “unfortunate history” and promote national unity. Read more

Earlier, as Park left Samsung Medical Center in Seoul, she told around 40 supporters that her health had improved. Dozens of officials who served in his administration and his conservative political party also gathered to offer their best wishes.

Park then visited her father’s grave before returning home.

Park’s release comes days after a presidential election won by conservative candidate Yoon Suk-yeol.

President-elect Yoon, who was involved in investigating corruption charges against Park when he was attorney general, said during the campaign trail that he was sorry about what happened to him.

On Thursday, he said he hoped to meet her and invite her to her inauguration in May.

Moon’s office said he sent Park an orchid and wished her well.

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Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Robert Birsel

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