Court dismisses citizens' damage suit against former President Park Geun Hye

Ali Hansburg, May 23, 2019, 9:07 a.m.

A district court on Thursday dismissed a damage suit filed against former President Park Geun-hye by thousands of ordinary citizens who claim to have suffered mental distress caused by Park's abuse-of-power and corruption scandal.

After over two years of deliberation on a damage suit filed by a group of 4,100 citizens, the Seoul Central District Court said there are not sufficient grounds to hold Park civilly liable for her scandal, separately from her criminal punishment.

In the lawsuit launched in January 2017, the 4,100 plaintiff citizens demanded compensation of 2 billion won (US$1.68 million), or 500,000 won per person, alleging they suffered mental pain and damages due to Park's abuse-of-power and corruption scandal.

Thursday's ruling marked the first court decision on a civil action against the former president, with similar damage suits pending in other courts.

In December 2016, a group of 4,900 citizens, led by lawyer Kwak Sang-eon, the son-in-law of former President Roh Moo-hyun, filed a damage suit against Park, claiming that she violated the Constitution and laws by abusing presidential authority for private gain and thus inflicted enormous harm on the public.

But Park's lawyers have criticized such damage suits as political maneuvering, saying the former president should not be held liable for her acts of power.

Do Tae-woo, a lawyer for Park, welcomed the Seoul court's decision to dismiss the damage suit, calling it a "resolute and courageous" ruling.

Park has been sentenced to a 25-year prison term and a 20 billion won fine after being convicted by local and appellate courts of power abuse and various corruption charges.

She was also sentenced to an additional six years in prison for coercing and accepting illegal funds from various government offices, including the National Intelligence Service.

Last November, Park drew a two-year prison term for election law violations from a Seoul appellate court. Her cases are now all pending in the Supreme Court.

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