SEOUL, Aug. 20 (Elizabeth Shim) — South Korea’s first woman prime minister is to serve a two-year prison sentence and pay a fine for accepting illegal donations – a ruling she described to reporters on Thursday as unfair.
Han Myeong-sook, who served as prime minister under South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun between 2006 and 2007, was indicted in 2010 for receiving $760,000 in bribes from a 53-year-old executive of a construction company, The Korea Herald reported.
The South Korean politician was cleared of the charges in 2011 after the witness backtracked on his previous testimony but the Seoul High Court in 2013 sentenced her to two years in prison and fined her $741,800. Han appealed the decision but on Thursday South Korea’s Supreme Court said existing evidence indicated Han accepted the bribe – her sister had used $84,290 for an apartment deposit, and the money came from Han, according to the ruling.
Han, who currently serves as an opposition party lawmaker in South Korea’s National Assembly, must relinquish her seat in government and is the first South Korean prime minister to go to jail.
“I will comply with the ruling, but regrettably cannot accept it. The law, which should be fair, is being swayed by those in power,” Han said.
Han has said South Korean President Park Geun-hye was targeting the opposition and opposition party leader Moon Jae-in said his party believes Han is innocent. The ruling party, however, said the prosecution was acting on principle.
South Korean news agency Yonhap reported the decision was watched closely by other politicians who are expected to go on trial for accepting illegal donations to their past campaigns.
In April, South Korean Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo resigned from office after he began facing allegations for accepting bribes and his name was found on a note left in the pocket of South Korean businessman Sung Wan-jong, who committed suicide on April 9.