Park Geun-hye, the former president of South Korea, was pardoned by South Korean President Moon Jae-in after serving a 22-year prison sentence for corruption and abuse of authority.
Park, who was impeached the previous year and became her country’s first democratically elected leader to be driven from office, was convicted of abuse of authority and coercion in 2018.
She has been admitted to the hospital three times this year owing to persistent shoulder and lower back discomfort.
Park was one of the recipients of Moon’s special amnesty for the new year, according to South Korean news outlets, due to her ill health.
President Moon Jae-in had previously ruled out a pardon for the former leader, thus the news came as a shock.
She is not the only former government official who was pardoned. South Korea’s first female prime minister Han Myeong-sook, who served a two-year prison sentence from 2015-2017 for bribery, was also exonerated by the government on Friday.
In 2018, Park was found guilty of 16 out of 18 charges, most of which related to bribery and coercion.
The court ruled that she had colluded with her close friend, Choi Soon-sil, to pressure conglomerates such as electronics giant Samsung and retail chain Lotte to give millions of dollars to foundations run by Choi.
In addition, Park was found guilty of leaking confidential presidential documents to her long-time friend.
She was initially sentenced to a total of 30 years in jail and fined 20bn won (£12.5m, $16.8m), but a high court later reduced the fine and the term to 15 years for corruption with another five for abuse of power.