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South Korea ex-PM acquitted of bribery charges

[JURIST] Former South Korean Prime Minister Han Myeong-sook [Forbes profile] was acquitted Friday of bribery charges by the Seoul Central District Court. Han was accused [Korean Herald report] of accepting $50,000 from former Korea Express CEO Kwak Young-wook in 2007 in exchange for helping him become president of Korea South-East Power Co., an affiliate of the state-run Korea Electric Power Corporation [corporate websites]. The prosecution had relied on Kwak's testimony as the primary evidence against Han, but the court found his statements contradictory and unconvincing. It also found Kwak guilty of embezzlement charges unrelated to the bribery charges against Han. Han's supporters hope that the acquittal [Xinhua report] will help the opposition leader politically, as she plans to run for mayor in upcoming June elections. The prosecution plans to appeal the decision.

The acquittal temporarily ends legal troubles for the former prime minister. In December, Han was indicted for bribery the week after a court issued a warrant [JURIST reports] for her arrest. Han served as the country's first female prime minister under president Roh Moo-hyun [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive]. Roh, who was himself the target of a bribery investigation, died [JURIST report] in May from an apparent suicide. Shortly before his death, prosecutors had questioned Roh on suspicion that he accepted up to $6 million in bribes from Park Yeon-cha, a financial supporter who is also CEO of a shoe manufacturing company.

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