Ex-South Korean prime minister to go to prison after top court upholds bribery conviction



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SEOUL, South Korea — A former South Korean prime minister will be sent to prison after the country's top court on Thursday upheld her bribery conviction, court officials said.

The Supreme Court rejected the appeal by Han Myung-sook, who was sentenced to two years for taking about $758,850 in kickbacks from a businessman in a 2013 ruling by the Seoul High Court, according to court officials and Han's office.

Han has avoided jail since 2013, while she appealed the sentence.

Supreme Court officials said their ruling is final.

Han, 71, served as South Korea's first female prime minister in 2006 and 2007 under former liberal President Roh Moo-hyun, who committed suicide in 2009 amid a separate bribery scandal.

Han has denied the charges, claiming that the investigations were politically motivated by conservatives who took power after the Roh government in early 2008.

"Today, I became a prisoner chained by political suppression. I'll abide by the court's ruling but regrettably I cannot accept it," Han said in a statement.

Han, a strong advocate of women's rights, also served as South Korea's first minister of gender equality and family under late President Kim Dae-jung, Roh's liberal predecessor, and as an environment minister under Roh.

In the late 1970s, she was jailed for two years under the then-authoritarian government for alleged involvement in pro-communist activities, but her work was later recognized as part of democratization efforts.

The prime minister is South Korea's No. 2 job but is largely a ceremonial position. Power is concentrated in the presidency, although the prime minister leads the country if the president becomes incapacitated.

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