The Seoul Central District Court issued a warrant to arrest Park after a marathon court hearing.
“It is justifiable and necessary to arrest (Park) as key charges were justified and there is risk of evidence being destroyed,” the court said.
Park was driven to the Seoul Detention Centre straight from the prosecutor’s office where she awaited the court’s decision. Some of Park’s supporters, who had gathered outside the detention centre, were seen crying.
Despite the early hour, about 50 of her supporters were at the detention centre when Park arrived, waving national flags and chanting slogans demanding her release.
The former President was grilled for nearly nine hours in court as the judge deliberated if she should be arrested.
Last week Park had undergone a 21-hour interrogation session at the prosecutors’ office, having refused repeated requests to be interviewed while in power.
Park’s opponents, the liberal Democratic Party cheered the court’s decision. The liberal Democratic Party, who is favoured to win the election on May 9, said the court’s move showed that “all are equal before the law”.
“We hope today’s landmark decision will provide fresh momentum in revealing the truth about the scandal of an unprecedented scale,” the Democratic Party said.
Park’s own Liberty Korea party, which has changed its name in an effort to distance itself from her, called the move “regrettable”.
Park’s arrest made her the third former leader to be arrested over corruption in Asia’s fourth-largest economy.
Choi Soon-Sil, Park’s secret confidante at the heart of the scandal, is being held at the same centre, as is Samsung heir Lee Jae-Yong.
Choi is already on trial for forcing top local firms including the tech giant to “donate” nearly USD 70 million to non-profit foundations which she allegedly used for personal gain, while Lee has been indicted for bribery and other offences.
Park, daughter of late dictator Park Chung-Hee, secured the largest vote share of any candidate in the democratic era when she was elected in 2012.
(With inputs from agencies)