South Korea's top court upholds former leader Park Geun-hye's 20-year prison sentence

SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) - South Korea's Supreme Court has upheld a 20-year prison sentence for former President Park Geun-hye's 2018 bribery conviction, ending a corruption scandal that has gripped the country for years.

Park was initially sentenced to 24 years in prison after pleading guilty to several counts of abuse of power, bribery and extortion. Allegations of a massive influence-pedaling case that sparked widespread protests have trapped some of the country's most powerful individuals and led to her removal in 2017.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye is on trial in a corruption case
South Korean President Park Geun-hye is on trial in a corruption case
Partney's 2018 sentence was commuted to 20 years after a complaint last July. Prosecutors appealed the sentence and demanded a heavier fine, but on Thursday, South Korea's Supreme Court upheld Park's 20-year prison sentence, according to a news release from the court.

The Supreme Court is South Korea's highest court, meaning Thursday's decision is expected to be the end of a legal remedy to appeal Park's sentence.
Park faces up to 22 years in prison - a further two years in prison for 2018 for interfering in the nomination of candidates for the Senuri Party, a political party led by her.
"This is the conclusion of a state corruption case that follows the candlelight revolution of the people, impeachment and judicial judgment by the legislature. It is an expression of the constitutional spirit of our democratic republic and shows the progress and maturity of Korean democracy," said South Korean President Boulevard. "We should take this unfortunate incident - the imprisonment of the former president - as a historical lesson and avoid repeating it."

South Korea corruption scandal
Park Geun-hye, daughter of former dictator Park Chung-hee, became South Korea's first female president when she came to power in 2013.

But his term was shrouded in controversy, and in 2017, he became the country's first democratically elected leader, after the country's constitutional court upheld his parliamentary vote for impeachment.
The vote came after millions of South Koreans took to the streets to demand the park's eviction after revelations about the unjust influence made by the cult leader's daughter, Choi Son-sil.

Shortly after Park was stripped of her office fees, she was arrested and put on trial for soliciting bribes from major organizations in the country, including Samsung. In 2018, she was prosecuted on various allegations that she had received illegal funding from the National Intelligence Service.

Several others were also implicated in the scam. In 2018, Park's confidant Choi was sentenced to 20 years in prison and fined 16.6 million on 18 charges, including abuse of power, coercion, fraud and bribery.
In 2017, Samsung chief Lee Ja-yonggang was convicted of bribery and other corruption charges and sentenced to five years in prison. In 2018, the high court reduced his sentence and suspended him for four years, although he has since held a hearing on the charge and a verdict is expected next week. 

In a related case, he was convicted last year of a controversial 2015 merger that helped him tighten control over the company.