Lee was found guilty of a string of offenses, including selling a presidential pardon to the Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee, who had been convicted of tax evasion, as well as siphoning off money from the country's intelligence agency and taking bribes in return for favors from business figures and others. Prosecutors had initially sought a 20-year sentence.
He also has to pay a fine of over 11 million US dollars and forfeit more than 7 million dollars.More news: US Senate confirms Judge Brett Kavanaugh for Supreme Court
The court found that Lee had ordered officials there to create slush funds and partake in accounting irregularities.
Of the 35 billion won prosecutors alleged Lee had embezzled, the court only acknowledged 24 billion won, citing a lack of evidence.
Lee Myung-bak "has bitterly disappointed not only citizens who trusted and supported him but also our entire country", chief judge Chung Kye-Sun said in a televised verdict. Lee did not attend the hearing in protest against the live broadcast.More news: Morata earns win for Chelsea as Arsenal roll past Qarabag
South Korean presidents have a tendency to end up in prison after their time in power - usually once their political rivals have moved into the presidential Blue House.
Lee, who served as president from 2008 to early 2013, was also slapped with a fine of 13 billion won ($11.6 million) and a forfeit of 8.2 billion won. Before Lee and Park, former liberal President Roh Moo-hyun jumped to his death in 2009 amid a high-profile corruption investigation of his family.
Roh Moo-hyun jumped to his death in 2009 as his family was being investigated for corruption, and all three of Kim Dae-jung's sons were arrested or involved in scandals during his presidency, leading the Nobel Peace Prize victor to issue an apology at the end of his term.More news: UK's May aims to gain Conservative control after storm Boris
He denies all charges and says they're politically motivated. Other convictions include the abuse of power and violation of the election law.