World

Confidante of disgraced South Korean president sentenced to 20 years in jail

Choi Soon-sil had been a friend of former South Korean president Park Geun-hye for decades.

TOKYO — A confidante of former South Korean president Park Geun-hye was sentenced Tuesday to 20 years in prison and fined almost $17 million for her role in a huge corruption scandal that led to Park’s impeachment and continues to roil the country.

The heavy sentence handed down to Choi Soon-sil bodes ill for Park, who is still on trial and is facing almost exactly the same charges.

Choi took advantage of her long-running, private ties with Park, Judge Kim Se-yoon said, to force big South Korean companies such as Samsung to give donations to two foundations, which were meant to be used to encourage sports but were instead slush funds for Park and Choi.

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‘‘In light of the size of material gains obtained by the accused, the severe confusion in state affairs caused by her crimes, and the people’s sense of frustration, the guilt of the accused is very heavy,’’ the judge said, according to reports from inside the packed courtroom.

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Choi, 62, has been friends with Park for about four decades. Her father, a kind of shaman-fortune teller, was close to Park’s father, Park Chung-hee, who served as South Korea’s strongman president from 1963 until he was fatally shot by his own spy chief in 1979.

WASHINGTON POST