24 May, 2017
Former President Park Geun-hye, far left, waits at the Seoul Central District Court on Monday for the first hearing in her bribery and abuse of power trial. It was Park's first public appearance since she was put into custody on March 31.
Former South Korean President Park Geun-hye was a study in determination as she strode into a packed Seoul courtroom Tuesday to begin a trial on corruption charges that could send her to prison for life if convicted on the most serious counts.
Her defense team maintains her innocence.
The conservative former leader - who faces a life term in jail - pleaded not guilty to the 18 offences she has been charged with, including abuse of power, coercion, and leaking of official documents, BBC reported.
The court allowed the press to take photos and broadcast the hearing's early minutes.
Reading out the charges against Park and Choi, it said: "The former president standing trial is a part of unfortunate history". When a judge asked about her occupation, she tersely said, "I don't have any". She is the eldest daughter of the dictator Park Chung-hee and she had a traumatic upbringing - her mother Yook Young-soo was assassinated in 1974, while her father was slain in 1979. Choi entered the room next and looked at Park. The former president avoided eye contact with her friend of 40 years. Choi was seated between Park's lawyer and her lawyer, Lee Kyung-jae. They say she colluded with Choi to take about $26 million in bribes from Samsung and was promised tens of millions of dollars more from Samsung and other large companies.
"What is your occupation?"
Three judges preside over the trial, led by Judge Kim Se-yun, who is also in charge of Ms Choi's trial. A top court ousted her from office.
South Koreans have been eagerly anticipating the trial of the country's first female president, who spent both her youth and later years in the Blue House - the country's equivalent to the White House. She is also accused of receiving bribes from conglomerates.
Park has apologized for putting trust in Choi but denied breaking any laws and accuses her opponents of framing her. Choi also denies wrongdoing. New liberal President Moon Jae-in took office this month after winning a special election to replace Park. Lee faces a separate trial. In 1996, former Presidents Chun Doo Hwan and Roh Tae-woo were tried together for their roles in the 1979 military coup and for corruption. Park was represented by six lawyers.
Prosecutors boast of having "overflowing" evidence proving Park's involvement in criminal activities.
As widely expected, Park denied all the charges. "Yes", she said. "My position is the same as my lawyer's". She added that Park is not the type of a person who could run the country with bribes and that the reason Park urged business leaders to support the Mir and K-Sports Foundation was purely to develop the nation's culture and sports sectors.