An appellate court on Tuesday maintained a lower court's three-year prison term for a confidante of ousted President Park Geun-hye for soliciting academic favors for her daughter.
The Seoul High Court handed down a guilty verdict for obstruction of duty on Choi Soon-sil, the woman at the center of the massive corruption scandal that stripped Park of power.
Choi is accused of peddling influence with Ewha Womans University to give undue favors to her 21-year-old daughter, Chung Yoo-ra, using her ties with the former president.
The court also retained the prison terms for Choi Kyung-hee, the former Ewha Womans University president, and Kim Kyoung-sook and Namkung Gon, two former professors at the university who complied with Choi's requests. Choi and Kim were sentenced to two years in jail, while Namkung was given one and a half years in the initial June ruling.
|This composite photo, filed June 23, 2017, shows the six defendants accused of committing irregularities to help the daughter of Choi Soon-sil (top L), former President Park Geun-hye`s confidante, with university admissions. Clockwise from top center are former Ewha Womans University President Choi Kyung-hee; Prof. Kim Kyoung-sook; former head of admissions Namkung Gon; and Profs. Rhu Cheol-kyun and Lee In-seong. (Yonhap)|
Two other professors accused of similar charges -- Rhu Cheol-kyun and Lee In-seong -- were given suspended terms with fines, all in line with the previous verdicts. The court also ruled the same initial verdicts for three other professors for their involvement in the collusion.
Prosecutors indicted the defendants for conspiring in getting Chung, an equestrian athlete, accepted into Ewha as a gifted player. Her mother Choi is believed to have demanded professors give her daughter grades for papers she never submitted and exams that she never took.
The court ruled that the defendants "ignored the law and legal procedures, and principles and rules, as well as betraying trust and credibility over fairness and justice."
It rebuked Choi as a parent who "let her child learn the logic of power as opposed to principles and rules" and the rest as educators that "taught students to be fair and just while in fact they easily gave themselves into illegalities and expediency."
"Therefore, the court cannot but hold the defendants accountable for their misdeeds," it said.
This scandal was one of Choi's many alleged wrongdoings that triggered moves towards Park's impeachment late last year. She was removed from office upon a Constitutional Court ruling on March 10, and is also standing trial over a string of charges including bribery. (Yonhap)