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Ousted South Korean leader Park faces trial
[SEOUL] South Korea's ousted president Park Geun-Hye was due in court Tuesday to face trial over the massive corruption scandal that led to her stunning downfall.
The fallen head of state will be taken from the detention centre where she is being held to Seoul Central District Court, for the opening of the final act in the drama that has engulfed her.
Park was impeached by parliament and in March sacked by the country's top court following revelations of her involvement in a massive corruption scandal centred on her friend of 40 years and bringing in some of the country's top businessmen, including Samsung heir Lee Jae-Yong.
Soon afterwards she was detained and indicted.
Park, 65, is the third former South Korean leader to stand trial for corruption following Chun Doo-Hwan and Roh Tae-Woo, who served jail terms in the 1990s for charges including bribery and treason.
In addition, ex-president Roh Moo-Hyun - the mentor of new leader Moon Jae-In - killed himself after being questioned over graft.
Tuesday's opening session will be Park's first public appearance since she was taken into custody in March.
Her trial is expected to last for months, and could shed new light on the ties between Park and the bosses of the family-run conglomerates who allegedly bribed her.
Park faces 18 charges including bribery, coercion and abuse of power for offering policy favours to tycoons who bribed her secret confidante.
The friend, Choi Soon-Sil, the daughter of a shadowy religious figure who was Park's mentor for years, is similarly accused of using her presidential ties to force top firms to "donate" nearly US$70 million to non-profit foundations which she then used for personal gain.
Park is also accused of letting Choi, who has no title or security clearance, handle a wide range of state affairs including senior nominations and even her daily wardrobe choices.
Choi is currently on trial for bribery and abuse of power, as is Samsung's Lee.
Park has denied all wrongdoing, blaming Choi for abusing their friendship.
In what will be their first public reunion since the scandal, Park will be joined by Choi in the courtroom on Tuesday, along with Lotte chairman Shin Dong-Bin, who is also accused of bribery.
Park Young-Soo, who led the special prosecutors who investigated the case, has said the proceedings will be "the trial of the century".
According to South Korea's largest-circulation newspaper the Chosun Ilbo, citing judicial sources, the jailed former leader has stayed away from televisions or newspapers while in detention and focused on preparing for the trial.
As an unconvicted inmate, Park is expected to wear her own clothes in court, but will be tagged with her prisoner number 503 and will not be able to put her hair up in her signature style as bobbypins are not allowed in prison, the paper said.