Sentencing of South Korea ex-leader Park Geun Hye and Samsung heir may go live on TV

It is widely expected that live TV coverage of Park's (left) sentencing, expected in October, and Samsung heir Lee will be available.
It is widely expected that live TV coverage of Park's (left) sentencing, expected in October, and Samsung heir Lee will be available.PHOTOS: AFP

SEOUL (AFP) - South Korea's Supreme Court on Tuesday (July 25) lifted a ban on the filming of trials, opening the possibility of live TV coverage of the sentencing of disgraced president Park Geun Hye and Samsung heir Lee Jae Yong.

At a rare meeting of justices presided over by Chief Justice Yang Sung Tae, the court adopted new regulations on filming of trials, effective from Aug 1.

"With the amendment, live TV coverage of lower court and appeals court sentencings will be permitted," it said.

The measure will help enhance the "people's right to know", it added.

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Supreme Court spokesman Judge Cho Byung Koo told AFP the move gives lower and appeal court judges a free hand in deciding whether to allow live TV coverage of verdicts and sentencings.

"If the courts decide in favour of allowing live transmissions on the grounds of public interest, the decision will overrule protests from the accused," he said.

"But at moments of sentencing, TV cameras will be ordered to be angled to show the judge only, not the accused," he said.

Following the decision, it is widely expected that live TV coverage of Park's sentencing, expected in October, and Samsung heir Lee will be available.

The decision came after a groundswell of public opinion calling for live broadcasts in key trials such as those of Park and Lee.

The Supreme Court has only allowed live online streaming for its own rulings so far.

Park, 65, has been on trial over a sprawling corruption scandal that saw millions take to the streets and led to her downfall.

She was impeached by parliament in December after mass demonstrations demanding her removal over a scandal centred on her long-time friend Choi Soon Sil and implicating some of the country's top businessmen.

Park was detained soon after her dismissal and indicted on 18 charges including bribery, coercion and abuse of power for offering governmental favours to tycoons.

On her most serious count, Park is accused of taking or seeking bribes totalling 59.2 billion won (S$72 million) for Choi or herself, most of which went to non-profit foundations which Choi controlled.

At Lee's trial on Tuesday (July 25), prosecutors said Park and Lee secretly met unaccompanied three times - in 2014, 2015 and 2016 - and discussed bribes in return for policy favours including government support for Lee's succession to the business empire of his bedridden father Lee Kun Hee.

But Lee's lawyers dismissed the allegations as "groundless assumptions".

Lee's verdict and sentence is expected to come late August.