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From palace to prison: South Korea's Park goes behind bars
[SEOUL] Daughter of a dictator and later head of state herself, South Korea's Park Geun-Hye has spent nearly two decades living in Seoul's sprawling presidential palace. Now she will be locked in a cell, eating US$1.30 meals and doing her own washing up.
A court on Friday ordered the ousted South Korean leader arrested as a criminal suspect in the vast corruption and influence-peddling scandal that brought millions of people into the streets, and culminated with her impeachment.
She will join other key figures in the scandal, including her secret confidante Choi Soon-Sil and the heir to the Samsung business empire Lee Jae-Yong, at the Seoul Detention Centre in Uiwang.
The complex south of the capital is made up of cell blocks - women and men are segregated - and other facilities, behind a barbed wire fence and a high wall interspersed with watch towers.
Its list of past residents reads like a Who's Who of South Korean business and politics, among them an army-backed ex-president jailed in the 1990s for bribery, a former spy chief, and SK Group chairman Chey Tae-Won, who leads the country's third-largest conglomerate.
Most detainees at the centre share 12-square-metre cells designed to hold about six people, but prominent figures stay in one-person facilities due to safety concerns.
The humble, 6.5-square-metre space features a foldable mattress on the floor serving as a bed, a television, a small cupboard, and a toilet and cold-water sink - although reports suggested that given her status Park could be allocated one of the larger cells to herself.
Inmates can use communal hot bathing facilities twice a week.
Three meals are provided, budgeted at 1,440 won (S$1.82) each. Inmates are required to eat in their cell and wash the meal tray at the sink before returning it. No outside food is allowed.
Detainees are required to wear uniforms - the women's are green - with morning roll call at 6am and evening 9pm. An hour's outdoor exercise is allowed each day.
In between inmates can be questioned by prosecutors and meet their lawyers.
Prison authorities do not impose any time limits on attorney consultations, with some wealthy inmates taking advantage of the rule to spend most of their waking hours at a visiting area with their lawyers.
Cho Yoon-Sun, Park's former culture minister currently on trial for creating a blacklist of artists critical of Park to starve them of state subsidies, has her husband among her defence lawyers.
According to Seoul-based JoongAng Monthly Magazine she stays in the visiting area with him from nine to five every day.
A former lawyer and banker herself and long known for a luxurious lifestyle, Cho is reportedly having trouble adjusting to prison life, refusing to eat food from the centre's kitchens and subsisting mostly on fruit.
Bad hair day
Park faces multiple charges from bribery to abuse of power, according to prosecutors probing the scandal centred on her and her friend Choi.
It remains unclear whether Park will receive any special treatment at the detention centre, but her detention is another disgrace in the decline and fall of a woman seen for decades as the country's political "princess".
The 65-year-old daughter of late strongman Park Chung-Hee, has long maintained an elaborate hairstyle emulating her late mother - a popular figure among aged, conservative voters - and has refused to be seen by others without undergoing an hour-long daily routine at the hands of her stylists.
The practice came under fire when it was reported to be among the possible explanations for her absence during the first critical hours of the Sewol ferry sinking disaster in 2014, while officials were frantically asking for guidance.
Park has invited the stylists - two sisters who industry sources suggest could charge 500,000 won (S$629) per visit - to her private home every day since she left the presidential palace earlier this month, including when the Sewol ferry was finally lifted out of the water, prompting online jeers.
Her preferred style requires dozens of small metal pins to maintain its form, which are banned in prison for security reasons.
Lawmaker and former prosecutor Lee Yong-Ju told a radio station: "The moment Park undoes her hair, or when she wakes up in prison and realises that she can no longer do her hair, she will really be faced with this stark new reality."