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Questioning of Park Geun-hye imminent

Prosecutor General Kim Soo-nam enters the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office in southern Seoul, Monday. The prosecution will notify former President Park Geun-hye, Wednesday, of when she will have to appear for questioning. / Yonhap


By Jung Min-ho

The prosecution will notify former President Park Geun-hye, Wednesday, of the date she will be called in for questioning on allegations made against her.

Speaking to reporters, Tuesday, a prosecution official said it will ask her to come to the Seoul Central District Prosecutor’s Office for questioning as a key suspect in the major influence-peddling and corruption scandal involving her confidant Choi Soon-sil.

“The date will be determined and she will be notified tomorrow,” the official said.

There have been no negotiations with Park for scheduling the questioning, according to the official. This may mean no more special treatment for the former head of state, whose impeachment was upheld by the Constitutional Court, Friday.

If she refuses to cooperate, prosecutors can ― and will likely ― request an arrest warrant. They said they have already collected “plenty of evidence” about her complicity in the scandal.

Park is expected to be questioned as early as this week.

The prosecution’s decision comes as it is under great pressure to investigate Park. Many politicians and activists have expressed concern over possible attempts to destroy evidence at Cheong Wa Dae and her private home in southern Seoul, criticizing prosecutors for being “too slow and political.”

The result of the investigation is expected to affect the fate of Prosecutor General Kim Soo-nam, who was appointed by Park in 2015, and the future of the prosecution profoundly, with all major presidential hopefuls promising to reform the powerful organization.

Prosecutors are also expected to impose a travel ban on Park, who is facing serious charges, including bribery that could put her in prison for life.

During their first investigation in November, prosecutors accused her of eight charges; while later independent counsel Park Young-soo leveled five more.

Given that most key suspects in the scandal have already been indicted, including Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-young who is accused of offering Choi and Park kickbacks, it is possible and likely that prosecutors can detain Park without a warrant during questioning before formally arresting her.

Meanwhile, Park is regrouping her legal team, ahead of an expected long court battle. Son Beom-kyu, a former lawmaker, is reportedly one of the lawyers her aides have recently contacted.

In its verdict Friday, the Constitutional Court ruled that Park abused her power to allow Choi to reap personal gains and permitted her to meddle in state affairs.

But the nature of the money ― whether the money was bribes or not ― was not specified in the ruling, and this will be a bone of contention at any upcoming criminal trial. Depending on how judges see the 43 billion won ($37 million) paid by Samsung, Park may be able to avoid the most serious charge facing her.

In regard to her alleged corrupt ties with business people, prosecutors plan to question the leaders of major companies, including Lotte, SK and CJ.

They are also expected to search the presidential office for evidence as much of the scandal still remains a mystery, including her absence during the sinking of the ferry Sewol, which resulted in the deaths of more than 300 people.

After searching Cheong Wa Dae, prosecutors are confident that they will be able to arrest Woo Byung-woo, a former presidential secretary who was able to avoid detention because of a lack of evidence.


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