First hearing begins for ousted South Korean President

Seoul [South Korea], May 23 : A Seoul court on Tuesday began the trial of ousted South Korean President Park Geun-hye over a string of corruption allegations involving her longtime friend and former aides.

Park appeared at the Seoul Central District Court, in her first public appearance since she was put into custody on March 3, escorted by correctional officials, reports the country's Yonhap news agency.

She was ousted by the March 10 Constitutional Court ruling and was indicted last month for bribery, abuse of power, coercion and leaks of government secrets in 18 suspected crimes.

The first hearing was presided over by a three-justice panel, led by Judge Kim Se-yun who is also in charge of the case of Choi Soon-sil, Park's friend at the center of the influence-peddling scandal that removed the former leader from office.

One of the gravest allegations Park faces is that she took or solicited bribes worth some 59.2 billion won (USD 52 million) from three conglomerates including Samsung, Lotte and SK for herself or her friend Choi.

If convicted, she could face a prison term of 10 years to life. Choi and Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin also appeared at the court to stand trial along with the former president.

The trial of Samsung's de facto leader Lee Jae-yong is already underway after he was indicted in February.

Prosecutors also suspect that the former leader pressured local firms to sign business contracts with Choi's companies.

During two preparatory sessions held at the court, Park's attorneys denied all charges leveled against her.

Park is the country's third former president to stand trial over corruption allegations after Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo who were convicted in 1996-97.

Her second hearing is scheduled for Thursday..

Source: ANI