Ex-President Park arrives home after hospital discharge

SEOUL/DAEGU-- Former President Park Geun-hye said Thursday she will contribute "whatever little strength I have" to the country's development as she arrived in her hometown for the first time since her imprisonment about five years ago.

Park, who was pardoned in December after spending four years and nine months in prison on a 22-year sentence for corruption, left a Seoul hospital earlier in the day before arriving at her new residence in the southeastern city of Daegu around noon.

"I am thankful that so many people have come here to welcome me like this, even though I had a lot of shortcomings and disappointed you," Park said before hundreds of supporters and well-wishers, apparently referring to her impeachment and ouster from office.

"While serving as president, I worked hard for the country and for the people, but there are still lots of dreams that I failed to realize, and those dreams are now up to others," she said. "I am going to add whatever little strength I have to help good talented people ... contribute to the development of the Republic of Korea."

Park said the "past five years were really a difficult for me to stand" but said she endured it thinking of the day of returning to her hometown.

Shortly after she began speaking, a man threw a soju bottle toward her, though she was not injured.

Earlier in the day, a broadly-smiling Park left Samsung Medical Center in Seoul.

"I offer my greetings to people after five years," Park said while dressed in a dark navy coat and holding a handbag in her right hand. "Thanks for your concerns, I have recovered a lot."

About 40 supporters, who had been waiting for her in front of the hospital since early morning, shouted cheers as Park spoke. Among the crowd were former officials of her administration, including her ex-chief of staff Kim Ki-choon.

Standing wreaths and welcoming banners lined the streets leading to the hospital, while riot police were deployed at the scene.

Park, 70, visited the grave of her late father and former President Park Chung-hee at Seoul National Cemetery before heading to Daegu.

Park's words were closely watched for a political message, including any mention of President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol. Yoon, a former prosecutor, investigated the corruption allegations against Park that led to her impeachment, removal from office and imprisonment in 2017.

During his campaign, Yoon said he was sorry for the corruption probe of Park as he apparently tried to sort out their troubled past relationship to consolidate conservative voters for the presidential election.

Yoon said he plans to visit Park.

"It is very good that she is going home after recovering," Yoon told reporters. "I am thinking of visiting provinces starting next week, and now that she's out of the hospital, I do have a plan to visit her."

Asked whether he would invite Park to his inauguration ceremony, Yoon said: "Of course. We're supposed to invite all former presidents."

President Moon Jae-in and Yoon both sent congratulatory orchids to Park, their offices said.

Moon sent an aide to the hospital Tuesday to deliver the orchid with a message reading, "Always be healthy." In response, Park said she hopes Moon will finish his term well and take good care of his health.

Yoon also sent an orchid, saying he wishes to visit Park as early as next week, if her health conditions allow. Park also offered well-wishes to Yoon, according to her lawyer Yoo Yeong-ha.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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