A lower court in Seoul sentenced former President Park Geun-hye, 66, to 24 years in prison and fined her 1.6 billion KES ($16.8 million) on corruption charges Friday.
This makes her the nation’s third ex-president to be criminally convicted.
The decision by the Seoul Central District Court came almost a year after she was removed from power.
“As the head of state, Park ignored her responsibility and abused her power to destabilize the country, which is a total disrespect to citizens who elected her as president.
Making it worse, she only denied all charges, which is not appropriate,” judge Kim Se-yoon said.
Park has one week to appeal. Park’s lawyers condemned Friday’s ruling and said they’ll consult with Park on what to do.
The prosecution which requested a 30-year prison sentence and a fine of 12.1 billion KES ($110 million) in the final hearing in February did not have an immediate response.
The judge found her guilty of pressuring major conglomerates to donate 77. 4 billion won (7.3 billion KES) to the Mir and K-Sports foundations, organizations controlled by her key confidant Choi Soon-sil. Choi received a 20-year jail sentence in the lower court for taking bribes.
Park was also guilty of pressuring SK Group and Lotte Group to make separate donations to the K-Sports Foundation for projects and granted them business favors in return.
Park was also found guilty of abuse of power in creating a blacklist of artists and writers who were hostile to the government and deliberately excluding them from government support.
Park was elected president of Korea in 2012. As a daughter of Park Chung-hee who ruled the country for almost two decades and its first female president, Park’s victory made headlines in the country and around the world.
Her downfall began with the ferry Sewol disaster in April 2014 in which more than 300 passengers of the commercial passenger ferry died.
The passenger rescue operations were slow and the ferry was not salvaged until last year.
On Friday, thousands of Park supporters gathered outside the court in southern Seoul, calling her trial “unfair.”