South Korea ex-leader Park Geun Hye's friend Choi Soon Sil jailed for 3 years for soliciting favours for daughter

Choi Soon Sil (centre), the jailed confidante of disgraced South Korean President Park Geun Hye, arrives for a hearing at the Constitutional Court in Seoul. PHOTO: REUTERS

SEOUL - Former South Korean President Park Geun Hye's confidant Choi Soon Sil has been sentenced to three years in jail for soliciting favours for her daughter, as part of a huge influence peddling and corruption case that brought about Park's downfall.

The Seoul Central District Court on Friday (June 23) found Choi, 61, guilty of exerting influence on the prestigious Ewha Womans University to gain privileges for her 21-year-old daughter's admission and good grades.

This marks the first court ruling in the case, which triggered massive protests and investigations leading to Park's impeachment in March.

More than 30 people have been arrested and indicted over the case, including Park herself and tech giant Samsung scion Lee Jae Yong, who is accused of giving bribes worth 43 billion won (S$52.4 million) to Choi in return for business favours.

Park and Lee, who are held in detention, deny all charges against them.

Choi was indicted last November on numerous charges, including fraud, bribery and abuse of power. She will continue to face trial for the other charges.

The court noted Friday that Choi may have acted out of love for her daughter, but she "committed too much wrongdoing" to justify her actions.

Ewha University's former president Choi Kyung Hee and former head of admissions Namkung Gon also received jail sentences - two years and 1.5 years respectively - Friday for acceding to Choi Soon Sil's demands.

Choi's daughter Chung Yoo Ra used to live in Germany, training as an equestrian athlete. She allegedly received billions of won in illicit funding from Samsung, under the guise of sports sponsorship.

She was arrested in January in Danish city Aalborg and extradited to Seoul last month. Prosecutors tried to seek an arrest warrant for her on charges including illegal enrollment to Ewha University, but were rejected twice by the court, citing a lack of evidence.

Ms Chung claims she has no knowledge of her mum's wrongdoings.

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