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Park lost her presidential immunity and was dismissed from her post when the constitutional court upheld a decision by parliament to impeach her. Yet that was all undone by the scandal involving a close confidant and bribery, extortion and other allegations.

Park, 66, has denied wrongdoing and was not present in court.

Handing down the sentence at Seoul Central District Court, the judge said that Park had "abused the power which was given to her by the citizens". "Yet she has not showed much sign of remorse and kept blaming Choi and her aides", Kim said. It ordered a fine of about 16.8 million dollars.

She was also charged for soliciting bribes from the head of the Samsung Group for government favours. The prosecution had demanded a jail term of 30 years.

Park was once again absent for Friday's hearing. They waved South Korean and USA flags and held signs that read, among other things, "Stop murderous political revenge!" But her presidency was controversial from the start, dogged by admissions that the country's spy agency flooded social media channels in the final days of the presidential election to help her to victory. There were no immediate reports of major clashes or injuries.

Many protesters sat or lay in the road crying, while others formed a protest rally calling for her release.

But for most Koreans, the big news on Friday was the cancellation of three baseball games over high levels of pollution, rather than the disgraceful end to Park's career, as corruption has become so endemic in South Korea's political life. But he's also remembered for imprisoning and torturing dissidents.

But their relationship latterly came under intense public scrutiny and the charge is that Choi had undue influence over a nation's affairs through her connection with Park.

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But she is not the only former president to have been arrested for corruption.

After years of seclusion, Park returned to politics by winning a parliamentary seat in the late 1990s, during a burst of nostalgia for her father after South Korea's economy was devastated by a foreign exchange crisis.

In 1974, Park's mother was assassinated by a North Korean sympathizer who was trying to kill her father.

Choi, who rose to power as an influential confidante of Park, was convicted of corruption in February. But her relations with the Choi family have long haunted her political career.

A Seoul TV station had also obtained Choi's tablet computer containing many confidential presidential documents, including drafts of Park's speeches.

Park Geun-hye joins the ranks of South Korea's many notorious leaders.

Park's presidential predecessor Lee Myung-bak is now in custody as prosecutors investigate multiple corruption charges involving him and his relatives.

In 2009, former president Roh Moo-hyun killed himself while he was under investigation for corruption.