S Korea ex-president Park Geun-hye indicted, faces trial

South Korean prosecutors on Monday indicted ex-President Park Geun-hye on high-profile corruption charges that could potentially send her to jail for life.

Park was forced out of office by massive, but peaceful, popular protests.She was impeached late last year, stripped of power in March and confined to a detention facility near Seoul since her arrest last month on chrges that she colluded with a confidante to extort from businesses, take bribes and commit other wrongdoing (See: S Korea ex-president Park Geun-hye jailed as court denies bail).

The indictment by Seoul prosecutors covers multiple charges, including abuse of power, extortion, bribery and leaking state secrets.

Park will stay in jail during her trial due to start in weeks from now that could last up to six months. It is unclear if the trial will start before a 9 May special election that will determine her successor.

Prosecutors also indicted Shin Dong-bin, the chairman of Lotte Group, South Korea's fifth-largest business conglomerate, on a charge of offering a bribe of 7 billion won ($6 million) to Park and her confidante in exchange for a lucrative government license to open a new duty free shop.

Park (65), who was elected South Korea's first female president in late 2012, will be forced to stand in court in handcuffs, bound with rope and possibly dressed in a prisoners uniform.

If convicted, her bribery charge carries the biggest legal punishment, ranging from 10 years to life imprisonment.

Though unpopular among many South Koreans, she still has supporters, and some conservative politicians and media outlets are already demanding her pardon in tghe event of a conviction.

So far, the country has pardoned two former leaders in the late 1990s who had been convicted, in a anttempt at national reconciliation amid financial crisis. south Korean ourts have alo been lenient in punishing corrupt business leaders over fears of economic damage.

Though surveys show a majority of South Koreans backed Park's removal from office and arrest, some of her last-remaining ultra-conservative supporters still stage rallies in downtown Seoul every weekend, which could pressure her successor to pardon her amidst increasing North Korean nuclear threats and economic concerns.

Dozens of high-level figures, including Park's friend of 40 years, Choi Soon-sil, top administration officials and Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong have already been indicted and await separate criminal trials (S Korean business tycoons face questions in parliament over donations for favours scandal).

Park and Choi allegedly conspired with one of Park's top presidential adviser to pressure 18 business groups, including Samsung, to donate 77.4 billion won ($69 million) for the launch of two non-profit foundations controlled by Choi. Prosecutors also accuse Park and Choi of taking bribes from Samsung and Lotte and blacklisting artists critical of Park's government to deny them state support.

Park has denied any legal wrongdoing, arguing that she only got help from Choi to edit some presidential speeches and on public relations.

Park is the daughter of late dictator Park Chung-hee, who some recall for his gross human rights abuses while others credit him for the country's phenomenal economic rise in the 1960-70s. Critics say Park's 2012 election wouldn't have happened without conservatives' nostalgia for her father.

Park Chung-hee's 18-year rule ended when he was gunned down by his intelligence chief in 1979, five years after his wife was killed during an assassination attempt on his life.

Park Geun-hye once described Choi (60), as someone who helped her when she had difficulties in the past, an apparent reference to her parents' deaths.