CONFLICTS

Ex-Park aide, culture minister guilty for artists blacklists

A South Korean court on Thursday sentenced the former presidential chief of staff and the former culture minister to prison for blacklisting thousands of artists and denying them state support because they were believed to be unfriendly to ousted President Park Geun-hye.

They are the latest convictions from the corruption scandal surrounding Park, who is jailed and being tried for bribery and other criminal charges.

The Seoul Central District Court sentenced Park's former aide Kim Ki-choon to three years behind bars and former Culture Minister Kim Jong-deok to two years for abuse of authority and other charges.

The court sentenced five other former presidential and government officials to shorter or suspended prison terms over the case.

Following months of massive protests by millions and an impeachment vote in December, Park was formally removed from office and arrested in March over allegations that she colluded with a friend to take tens of millions of dollars from the country's largest companies through bribes and extortion.

Park was indicted in April on bribery and other charges. Prosecutors expanded their investigation to include the blacklisting allegations late last year following a complaint submitted by a group of artists. Prosecutors later said about 9,000 artists were on the presidential blacklist, which reportedly included writers, poets, actors, musicians, painters, and film and theater directors.

The Seoul court agreed with prosecutors that many of the blacklisted artists were unjustly excluded from government funding or participating in government-backed culture projects.